Volga-Dnepr Group / Press-center / Media Coverage

AirBridgeCargo forges North America to Russia link.

04/08/2008

AIRBRIDGECARGO Airlines plans to launch scheduled B747 freighter services to North America from Russia in the second half of this year, writes Roger Hailey.

The Volga-Dnepr Group subsidiary will operate up to three flights a week on a Krasnoyarsk-Toronto-Houston rotation and then back to Russia via ABC’s hubs in Frankfurt or Amsterdam. The addition of North American services, which link the energy hubs of Sakhalin and Houston, has been made possible by the delivery of ABC’s first B747-400ERF (extended range freighter) in November last year, with two more operational by June. ABC will then operate a total of seven B747 freighters.

Volga-Dnepr recorded group turnover of $1.05bn in 2007, a 51% increase on the year before, while group profit more than doubled to $49.7m.

The group’s cargo charter operation, using AN124 and IL76 freighters, registered a 62% surge in revenues to $767m. But scheduled operator ABC, with a 32% rise in turnover to just over $300m “just failed to make a profit on the year,” said senior vice-president of strategy and commercial, Denis Ilyin. Apart from the North American services, ABC will add direct routes out of Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong to Moscow. The airline is also looking at Eastern Europe and the Middle East. India, said Mr Ilyin, is still on the radar but the rates “are not yet good enough”. He added that any services would need to be linked with other routes.

ABC will also introduce regional feeder freighters, with two TU-204s to be delivered next year.

Meanwhile, the air cargo charter arm is continuing to modernise its fleet with a quieter and cleaner version of the workhorse IL76 freighter.

The first upgraded IL76TD-90VD, able to operate anywhere in the world, is already in service and at least four more will come on stream by 2010, said the airline’s commercial director Dennis Gliznoutsa.

Mr Gliznoutsa said the industry needs to be made aware of the “significant differences” between the old and new IL76, in terms of “price, performance and capability”. He added: “The new IL76 will take us into a new market niche and will generate a substantial increase in demand.”

Surprisingly, despite the Russian energy boom, Volga-Dnepr said that the cost of domestic aviation fuel, some $1,200 a tonne, was hindering its expansion plans to provide flights for expensive imports demanded by Russia’s ever more affluent consumers.

“It is not cheap to buy aviation fuel in Russia, and we may have to limit the number of flights,” Mr Ilyin said.

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