On the heels of the decision to add a new runway to London Heathrow Airport (LHR), the major U.K. hub is already showing signs of growth. For example, starting today, AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC) will begin twice-a-week service connecting Heathrow with the carrier’s hub at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International (SVO). The route represents the 14th European destination for ABC and will help the carrier increase connectivity between Europe, China and the rest of Southeast Asia.
“Europe, together with China, has been our prime market since the very first day of our operations 12 years ago,” said Robert van de Weg, senior vice president of sales and marketing at ABC’s parent company, the Volga-Dnepr Group. “In the first nine months of 2016, we have achieved a 22 percent increase in tonnage ex Europe.”
With more than 100 tonnes of cargo capacity becoming available every Thursday and Saturday on ABC’s 747-8F aircraft, the new service will be welcomed by exporters in the U.K., Heathrow officials said, adding that some forwarders are reporting a shortage of air cargo capacity on some long-haul routes to Asia, where consumer spending is expected to reach US$32 trillion by 2030.
“Cargo is a little-known but huge part of our operations,” said Nick Platts, head of cargo at Heathrow. “In fact, Heathrow is responsible for 29 percent of all U.K. non-EU exports, virtually all of which goes in the belly-holds of passenger aircraft, making us Britain’s largest port.”
Once LHR completes its runway expansion and its US$224 million overhaul of its cargo infrastructure over the next 15 years, Platts said the air hub will be able to add 40 more destinations and nearly double its cargo capacity. Various improvements will include a temperature-controlled pharmaceutical storage area and improved infrastructure to reduce congestion. The goal, he said, is to lower the average cargo processing times to four hours.
Earlier this year, AirBridgeCargo’s had expanding its network in the United States and Southeast Asia, launching new 747 freighter service to Houston and Seattle in the U.S., and to Phnom Penh in Cambodia.