AirBridgeCargo pivots away from Africa citing market weakness

AirBridgeCargo’s CEO Sergey Lazarev told Russian Aviation Insider that the carrier’s Africa routes, which had been operated by U.K.-based sister airline CargoLogicAir, had proven to be commercially unfeasible, due to the weakness of the African market. The London Stansted via Frankfurt to Libreville, Johannesburg and Nairobi route has been scrapped in favor of more profitable routes connecting Europe to America and China, he said.

Since February 2016, CargoLogicAir operated the route with a 747-400F leased from Volga-Dnepr Group-owned Cargo Logic Management, which is based in the U.K.

The latest IATA statistics substantiate Lazarev’s cynical view on Africa’s air cargo market. IATA warned of that freight capacity grew almost three times faster than demand (35.9 percent, year-on-year) in 2016. The aviation organization cited rapid long-haul expansion, particularly by Ethiopian Airlines, and expansion by North African carriers. The result was a freight load factor of just 24.6 percent in September 2016. Meanwhile, freight tonne kilometers remained flat for the first nine months of the year.

The Russia-based AirBridgeCargo is also turning to pharma, with its Moscow hub receiving CEIV-Pharma certification earlier this month. Mikhail Vasilenko, CEO of Sheremetyevo International Airport explained that the carrier’s US$85 million terminal will initially be capable of handling up to 380,000 tonnes of cargo a year, but eventually will have a capacity of 1 million tonnes. “We are set on building the largest cargo hub in Europe to meet the growing market needs and create favorable conditions for long-term success of our partner airlines,” he said.

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