Cologne welcomes Maersk Air Cargo

The world’s largest ACMI provider, the Avia Solutions Group, has translocated some of its cargo flights from Hahn Airport to nearby Cologne-Bonn Airport. This means that the virtual carrier now uses two airports in Central Europe that are both licensed to operate 24/7. The contractor is Danish shipping giant, Maersk, and its freight arm, Maersk Air Cargo. The Cologne flights fly to Greenville-Spartanburg (GSP), South Carolina, to supply parts and component to the U.S. production plant of car maker BMW.

dnata handles all shipments flown on behalf of Maersk Air Cargo from Cologne to Greenville/Spartanburg  – credit dnata

The cargo flights ex Cologne-Bonn, scheduled on Thursdays and Sundays, are operated either by Air Atlanta Icelandic or ASL Airlines Belgium. While Cologne-Bonn airport is responsible for the operational processes, dnata’s local station is contracted to handles the cargo shipments (See: dnata wins Maersk Air Cargo business for CGN).

“We are proud that our freight sales team, led by Andrea Tony Geslao, has gained a strong new partner for Cologne/Bonn Airport in Maersk,” says Tobias Lyssy, Head of Sales and Marketing, Cologne-Bonn Airport.

Tobias Lyssy heads the marketing and Sales division of CGN Airport – courtesy: LinkedIn

Final decision on the CGN flights is still pending, HHN maintains
When asked about the loss of the two transatlantic flights, Hahn Airport Head of Sales, Roger Scheifele, said that Maersk and the Avia Solutions Group would initially only operate test flights in Cologne. To his knowledge, no final decision had yet been made regarding the migration. Although CGN is significantly more expensive for airlines than HHN, Magma has a maintenance base at CGN, which is supportive for flight operations, admitted Scheifele. At the same time, he pointed out that six to seven B747 cargo flights a week would continue to take off from HHN to GSP on behalf of Magma / Maersk.

The airport is located in a scenically attractive but very sparsely populated area. HHN was bought out of insolvency in MAY23 by the nearby located company, Triwo AG. On the occasion of the change of ownership, Triwo owner, Peter Adrian announced that he would invest 20 million euros by mid-2024, to bring the airport up to the latest technical standards and renovate the apron areas.

Andrea Tony Geslao heads the Cargo Sales unit of CGN – courtesy: CGN

More Maersk flights expected at CGN
According to information obtained by CargoForwarder Global, Maersk/Magma are now planning to set up a third weekly frequency between CGN and GSP. However, it is still unclear as to when this will happen. Maersk’s air division is already active at CGN for some time, seen by the local maintenance station and a CGN-based B767F that flies within integrator, UPS’ network. The U.S. package giant uses Cologne-Bonn as its central European hub. According to the CGN management, Maersk is also looking into expanding its commitment by serving other routes to and from CGN. This was the outcome of a meeting between both sides that took place last Wednesday (06DEC23). “In our opinion, serving another destination in the USA would be a feasible option,” says Andrea Tony Geslao, Head of Sales CGN, without naming a specific airport. In his opinion, feeder flights between CGN and Billund in central Denmark are also an option, as road feeder transports on the approximately 550 km long route are a lottery due to permanent building sites around the Hamburg Elbe Tunnel. However, large freighters such as the B747 or the future B77 ordered by Maersk Air Cargo would be too big for this. Instead, the smaller B767F could be a very practical solution, says the manager.

Maersk wants to transport 1/3 of all shipments with its own freighters
Currently, the freighter fleet of Maersk Air Cargo is still in the process of being established. The unit’s vision is that roughly one third of its total annual tonnage will be carried by its own freighters and within its own controlled cargo network. This the newcomer aims to achieve by combining leased and self-owned assets.

The remaining capacity will be provided by commercial airlines and charter flight operators, says Maersk.

Back to Cologne-Bonn and the airport’s 2023 performance. Its management estimates a throughput of 875,000 tons in the current year, which would be slightly above 2019 pre-pandemic results. CGN is the third-largest cargo airport in Germany after Frankfurt and Leipzig-Halle. Its excellent freeway access, highly industrialized environment, and approval for 24/7 operations, make it attractive for cargo airlines and integrators, as evidenced by newcomers such as Maersk but also existing customers like UPS, FedEx and DHL Express.

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