AirBridge Cargo (ABC), the scheduled cargo airline subsidiary of Volga-Dnepr Group, has appointed Andrew G. Morch as Regional Director and Area Manager for The Americas to spearhead the next stage of ABC’s route development program.

Andrew previously held the post as Director of Operations, Americas, for KLM Cargo. In his new role based in ABC’s Chicago regional headquarters, he will manage the airline’s existing interline and GSA partner relationships in the United States, Canada and South America and be responsible for the launch of AirBridge Cargo’s own Boeing 747F services from the US to Russia and Europe in 2007.

AirBridge will initially commence all-cargo flights ex Houston and New York. The exact timing of the launch and routings will be announced later in the year.

Stan Wraight, Vice President of Volga-Dnepr Group responsible for scheduled cargo operations, said, ‘The Americas is a very important market in terms of our future development strategy and in Andrew Morch, we have appointed a regional director with some 20 years’ experience of managing airline operations, projects and finances and with a track record of achieving outstanding results. He is well known to our client base and partners and his appointment is the first step in developing AirBridge into a household name in the Americas.

‘We have already started to successfully develop the Americas market with the help of our interline partners and we will be reinforcing these relationships with the introduction of our own services from major cities in the US to Russia and beyond. The Russian economy is extremely vibrant, stimulated by the tremendous growth in the oil and gas, mining and consumer goods sectors so we expect to see strong traffic flows when we start ABC flights next year.’

The Russian airline’s fleet will double in size to eight Boeing 747 freighters in the next 18 months. Two more 747-200Fs acquired from Nippon Cargo Airlines in Japan will join the fleet during the first quarter of next year and, in October, the first of two new Boeing 747-400ER Freighters will commence operations with ABC. The second 747-400ERF is on schedule to follow in early 2008. The two new aircraft have a list price of US$450 million.

Last month, AirBridge Cargo announced the signing of a new interline agreement with Continental Airlines and, in a separate move, appointed GSA partners in key cities across the United States to begin growing its presence in America ahead of the launch of its own services.

The agreement with Continental Airlines supports the ambitions of both airlines. The US airline has stated its plans to enter the Russian market while AirBridge expects the Houston-based airline to provide an important link into its network, notably for the movement of oil and gas equipment from Texas to Sakhalin Island off the coast of Russia.

Air Canada will continue as the ABC GSA representative in Canada and Andrew’s appointment will further strengthen our partnership focused on MD-11F services through Frankfurt.

ABC operates two IL-76 freighters a week from its hub in Krasnoyarsk to serve Sakhalin’s booming oil and gas industry and has now opened its own office on the island to manage its services and future development.

To increase its sales presence, ABC, which also has an interline agreement with EL AL Cargo in New York on the North Atlantic sector to Europe, has appointed Platinum Air Cargo has its general sales agent in Houston, Dallas and Washington while Heavy-weight Air Express will represent AirBridge in New York and Chicago.