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KLM returns to Atlanta, links China and Africa

By control on February 23, 2012

Air France-KLM Cargo and Martinair Cargo will recommence service to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on March 27 after a three-year hiatus. Boeing 747 freight flights will depart from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and complement Air France-KLM’s existing passenger routes to Atlanta.

According to a press release, Air France Cargo will perform the flights, which will likely occur twice a week, while Air France-KLM Cargo and Martinair Cargo will provide sales and customer service. The freight route is estimated to impact metro Atlanta and the Southeast’s economy by $8 million to $12 million, annually, according to a company press release.

“Air France’s decision to begin all-cargo air service into Atlanta furthers our position as one of the world’s premier logistics hubs,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said in a statement. “Air cargo is important to Atlanta and the southeastern United States, and it is critical to our continued growth and success as a city and a region.”

Alain Pagès, Air France’s vice president of sales for the U.S., also praised the reinstatement of services. “We are very pleased to welcome Air France freighters back to Atlanta after an absence of three years,” he stated. “These new flights are made possible through our close working relationship with Delta Cargo and will offer our customers in the Southeast [U.S.] greater access to our global array of products and services.”

Air France Cargo previously flew to Hartsfield-Jackson from 1997 to 2009. The carrier returns to Atlanta on the heels of its recent cargo boom, highlighted by a 40 percent, year-over-year, surge in international freight flights in 2011.

KLM has also expanded its reach into Africa, banding together with Kenya Airways to offer freighter services between China and Kenya. A Martinair Boeing 747-400 freighter will be used on the new flight. The service will be operated twice a week. The plane is scheduled to start in Amsterdam; proceed to Guangzhou, China; head to Nairobi, Kenya, via the United Arab Emirates; fly to Lagos; head back to Nairobi; and finally return to Amsterdam.

The Africa-China trading lane has been experiencing major growth, and this new service will help further develop Nairobi as a strong cargo player, according to KLM. For Kenya Airways, this new route plays into its projected cargo expansion; the carrier will introduce 12 new freighters in the next 10 years. This increase in freighters will hopefully result in a huge uptick in cargo tonnage for the airline. In the third quarter of fiscal-year 2011, which ended December 31, cargo tonnage at Kenya Airways increased 6.2 percent, year-over-year; capacity rose 6.5 percent, year-over-year.

Although cargo in the Asia-Pacific region has been traditionally hot, KLM and Kenya Airways are launching this new service amid a mild downturn. International airfreight demand shrunk 13.7 percent, year-over-year, in Asia last month, according to the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines. To address this decline, Asian carriers dropped capacity by 5.3 percent, year-over-year, but still ended January with a load factor of 59.6 percent, 5.7 percent less than January 2011.

“The slump in air cargo demand mainly reflects the earlier timing of the Lunar New Year holidays this year, but is nevertheless also a reminder of the still uncertain outlook for the global economy in the year ahead,” AAPA Director General Andrew Herdman said in a statement.

"With Europe sliding into recession, we expect this to be another challenging year for the industry, but remain guardedly optimistic given some tentative signs of recovery in the U.S. and continuing positive momentum here in Asia,” Herdman continued.

Despite sluggish freight volumes, passenger traffic in the Asia-Pacific region grew in January. Asia-Pacific carriers transported 17.2 million international passengers last month, a 7.3 percent, year-over-year, increase. According to a press release, the early Lunar New Year propelled passenger traffic, unlike cargo volumes.

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