Call it "The Big Chill" two ways, just as it readies the unveiling of a new perishables center at Frankfurt International Airport on December 8 2011, a plan that has been in the works for quite some time, an ill wind is blowing across the field at Frankfurt International, where the big long haul freighters once delivered goods and profits to Lufthansa when air cargo flights were a night animal.
Now as the days are shorter and the nights longer, the Fraport ban has left cargo out in the cold.
Today Lufthansa Cargo ramps up the drama with the rather startling declaration that it has decided to stop all expenditures and will no longer pursue improving the airlines’ ground infrastructure at its home base.
According to LH Cargo, the immediate hold on funds is a reaction to the night flight curfew recently imposed by a local court.
Before taking any further decisions concerning its roadmap, the airline has put future plans in limbo until Germany’s Federal Administrative Court comes up with their final ruling on the night flight issue. This is expected in March or April of next year with a hearing to commence March 13, announced the court.
According to a master plan called “Program 2020,” LH Cargo intends to replace its existing Cargo Center (LCC) in Rhein-Main’s northern area with a new state-of-the-art facility. The existing warehouse dates back to the 80s and needs to be either fully face-lifted and equipped with modern technology or taken down and reconstructed completely anew. So far, LH Cargo has opted for the latter. The master plan called for investing up to 500 million euros to erect a huge new facility enabling an annual throughput of well over two million tons of air freight.
“This includes the newest available technology, IT equipment and the highest possible security standards,” confirmed LH Cargo’s head of communication, Nils Haupt, when asked. So far, the groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for 2013.
However, Haupt confirmed that all of this has now been halted.
A second project directly affected by the provisional night flight ban is the construction of new headquarters in the neighborhood of the Cargo Center. First estimates say this building could cost up to 100 million euros.
Also, the carrier’s fleet renovation program is hit by the curfew imposed by Hessian State’s court as well. Haupt confirmed that the order for five Boeing B777 freighters placed earlier this year is not at stake. “But our additional commitment for five options on the B777F has now become questionable due to the night flight uncertainties.”
Originally, the aircraft were intended to replace Lufthansa Cargo’s existing MD-11 freighter fleet. This was to be concluded by the end of this decade.
All in all, the funds LH Cargo originally planned to invest in a new warehouse and headquarters at Rhein-Main, plus the fleet renovation program. well exceeded one billion euros.
Heiner Siegmund Flying Typers
Gravity always wins!