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Markets under pressure While there is plenty of potential for air freight growth in Eastern Europe, as countries in the region

ramp up their export trade, several players in the industry there are noting that the highly competitive environment is squeezing profit margins and making day-to-day business a real challenge


he freight business of carrier Czech Airlines achieved an increase of approximately 1 percent in its 2012 first-quarter revenues compared to the same period of 2011, confirms Jan

Grabmüller, executive director cargo. “I call this a success because we have got less

cargo capacity in comparison to last year, and because everyone claims there should be a weak recession period for air cargo transportation,” he pointed out. Being a small air freight carrier, Czech Air-

lines Cargo must compete with the large bellyhold or main-deck capacity offered by other airlines. Grabmüller highlighted several “top features” that enable it to survive: “reliable service, flexible alternative solutions where capacity is not available, supported by very smart aggressive sales”. He went on: “Czech Airlines, like other air-

lines, has to live at the moment with extremely unpleasant costs of fuel in concurrence with a

highly competitive environment. There is pres- sure on prices, especially in economically declining markets where all competitors want to keep or own market share but you don’t have a source from which to grab it. “You have to decide whether to keep on

fighting to operate in such a market even with no profit, or leave it,” Grabmüller summed up. In particular, he said the Czech Republic is a

very price-oriented market simply because of its good production potential and central location within Europe. “With no borders, we live in a very open

country towards surrounding markets where you see large amounts of overcapacity. There- fore, local forwarders have lots of options as to where and how to route their flows.” This means that carriers like Czech Airlines

Cargo must offer unique niche products or faster, tailor-made solutions to attract customers and beat the spot pricing strategies of their com- petitors at large surrounding hubs.

Skybridge Networks strengthens its position

Skybridge Networks, the cargo general sales agent (GSA) that covers Bulgaria and Romania, is currently focusing on a number of areas, including increasing volumes through regional airports like Varna and Bourgas. Managing director Konstantin Ivanov says: “In Roma-

nia, we have launched RFS (road feeder services) with British Airways to Frankfurt, improving the capability to link with the freighters and target bigger shipments, which no doubt will strengthen our position and carried volumes.” He noted that the company’s Bulgarian client carriers

all saw a rise in demand last year, with Skybridge achiev- ing a 22 percent increase in volumes compared to 2010. In Romania, the GSA strengthened its team and saw con- tinued growth. “Both markets had improved export levels in 2011 and

Certainly, Grabmüller said

that Czech Airlines Cargo prefers to take an approach based on a quality offering, rather than join a price war that will erode margins. The airline has increased its

cargo capacity on flights to Sofia (Bulgaria), Skopje (Mace- donia) and Belgrade (Serbia), flying 9-ton payload ATR-72 freighters on these routes. It also flies an ATR-72 freighter to Zurich. Czech has also returned to

Tashkent in Uzbekistan (three times a week), and added A319 services to Baku in Azerbaijan (twice-weekly) as well as to Ufa in western Rus- sia, (also twice a week). All three of these destinations were added at the start of the cur- rent summer schedule. Meanwhile, on 22 April the carrier launched

weekly A320 flights to Nizhny Novgorod in western Russia and Abu Dhabi is now served four times a week with an A319 aircraft. In addition to these services, Czech Airlines

Cargo utilises the bellyhold capacity of its sister company, Holidays Czech Airlines, which offers new opportunities for cargo development in Tunisia, Morocco, Cape Verde, Dubai, south-

ern Italy, Spain and around nine destinations in Greece. With regard to its use of Champ’s CargoSpot

cargo management system, Grabmüller said the carrier has yet to cut over fully. However, he noted that so far it is working well enough and that the technology has accelerated the account- ing process. “We hope to get the full benefits from CargoSpot’s features within several months, after we get used to it,” he revealed. Overall, Grabmüller considers: “This year is

again very challenging but since we become more experienced in how to serve our customers better and more effectively in a difficult environ- ment, we are not afraid of our future.”


IN FEBRUARY, Sofia airport processed 1,277 tonnes of cargo and mail – up by 14.3 percent on the same month of last year. Volumes carried on freighter flights rose by 22 percent, with an 8 per- cent increase recorded for bellyhold freight.

exports actually are the major factor in overcoming the crisis,” Ivanov said. However, demand for exports from the two countries slowed towards the end of last year and this trend has continued into 2012, making the coming months likely to be challenging, he concluded.

Ivanov: “exports ... are the major factor in overcoming the crisis”

SLOVENIA’S LJUBLJANAJože Pučnik airport saw its net profit rise by 23 percent last year, to 5.2 mil- lion euros (US$6.9 million), as revenues held steady and operating costs were reduced. Cargo throughput for the 12 months also rose, by 13.6 percent in comparison to the previous year.

WARSAW airport handled over 3,000 tonnes of freight in February, a 12.5 percent decline year- on-year. Goods shipped included spare parts, consumables, medicines, books and magazines.

PRAGUE-RUZYNE AIRPORT celebrated its 75th anniversary earlier this month (April).

LOT POLISH AIRLINES has lifted its embargo on dangerous goods shipments to and from Roma- nia. LOT Cargo may now accept several classes of such items on these routes.

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23 April 2012

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