AIR CARGO QUATERLY - Volga Dnepr Group charter and scheduled business extends global reach

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Air Cargo News  

By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOT
Two decades ago one would describe the relationship between Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Group and its clients, as “strange bedfellows.” But today, not only is this Russian-based carrier celebrating 15 years of business, it remains one of the leading charter airlines in the world. Volga Dnepr Group customers include Exxon Mobile, Lockheed Martin, Dell Computer, Alcatel Aerospace, Acer, and many others.
Last year especially was a banner year, when the Group launched its AirBridge Cargo (ABC) airline, which offers scheduled service between Europe and Asia. Today, ABC operates alongside Volga Dnepr Airlines, the Group’s successful charter business for international outsize and overweight cargoes.
“These companies are looking to do business with a carrier dedicated to quality,” says Stanley Wraight, vice president of the Volga Dnepr Group of Companies responsible for AirBridge Cargo. “We provide global logistics and work closely with freight forwarders and logistics service providers.”
Ramping up the charter businessVolga Dnepr operates a fleet of 10 AN-124-100s, three IL-76s and six YAK-40s. The first new-built IL-76 cargo aircraft began flight testing in June and entered service in September.
In addition, earlier this year Volga Dnepr Group executives signed an order for five AN-124-100M-150 aircraft. These planes will be built by Avistar, in Ulynovsk, in partnership with the Ukrainian design bureau. The contract for the aircraft calls for a five-year modernization plan to bring the existing fleet of AN-124-100s Russian aircraft up to their full 150-ton capacity.
According to Wraight, the AN-124 operates as a niche aircraft perfectly suited for Volga Dnepr’s line of work. “Fifty four percent of the global movement of heavyweight and outsized air cargo is moved by the Volga Dnepr Group,” he says.
Expert assessment of the outsized cargo market predicts that the market will continue to grow at a rate of 15 to 20% a year, resulting in greater demand for aircraft capable of hauling 150-ton capacity.
Expanding scheduled reach
Meanwhile, AirBridge Cargo is on a fast expansion program. In the latest negotiations between the Russian and Chinese aviation authorities, ABC was awarded substantial additional frequencies to Shanghai (14 times) and Beijing (five times) as well as traffic rights to other Chinese destinations, including Guangzhou (six times), and Nanjing. The additional frequencies will also allow ABC the right to co-mingle cities, and for the first time, add Moscow on the westbound flights.
“This will allow the carrier to launch Peking Moscow direct services for the first time this winter season,” says Wraight. “Moscow -Amsterdam and Moscow-Frankfurt will commence as well. Thus, the additional capacity of this new aircraft comes at an ideal time.”
ABC currently operates six flights a week to Shanghai and twice-weekly services to Beijing from Amsterdam and Frankfurt via Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and Krasnoyarsk.
“We firmly believe the market will demand regional service in China,” Wraight says. The company also wants to meet growing demands for service into China from customers in the Netherlands.
“Our customers are asking for it, so we decided to make the move,” he says.
AirBridge Cargo operates two Boeing 747-200s and one 747-300. ABC recently took delivery of the third Boeing 747 freighter just in time to meet peak season demand on its main trade lane between China and Europe via Russia. The 747-300 aircraft was converted from passenger to all-cargo configuration by Boeing at its Wichita facility.
The 747-300 enables the carrier to add four more scheduled frequencies a week between China, Russia and Europe in time for the peak season. All four additional frequencies will fly to Shanghai.
“With that, we connect service with additional flying via our hub in Krasnoyarsk, from Shanghai, Beij

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American Journal of Transportation