US cargo carriers apply for new flights over Russia

Washington DC
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The USA and Russia have agreed to increase the amount of flights over Russia allotted to US operators for the upcoming traffic season starting 31 March, allowing more cargo carriers to apply for 36 additional weekly routes over the country.

The agreement amends the US-Russia Air Transport Agreement, which had previously permitted 62 overnight frequencies allotted to UPS and FedEx. The new agreement allows other carriers to bid for the additional 36 weekly flights over Russia for a total of 109 flights per week.

The flights over Russia have been operated only by FedEx and UPS in recent years, but the amendment will allow other carriers to apply for some of those routes. Under the agreement, cargo carriers may fly between Europe and points in China, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, India, South Korea and Japan.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) expects to wrap up the request for proposals process by mid-March.

FedEx has already requested 46 flights over Russia per week, and UPS has requested 27, or two fewer than the 29 it flew during the 2012 season starting 31 March.

Polar Air Cargo is requesting 12 of the 36 additional frequencies. The carrier intends to fly six eastbound and six westbound flights between Leipzig, Germany and Seoul Incheon, Hong Kong or Shanghai. It plans to start the service 60 days upon receiving DOT approval.

Polar Air Cargo once operated westbound and five eastbound flights between Amsterdam and Seoul but dropped those routes, said the airline in a regulatory filing. It terminated those routes but continued to fly to Asia from Europe via the Middle East.

Southern Air Cargo is requesting five weekly frequencies between Leipzig and Hong Kong for the season. The carrier previously operates flights between Leipzig and Hong Kong, it says, however it needs to avoid Russian airspace to do so.

Southern Air, which is in the midst of Chapter 11 restructuring, says it could save on costs by deploying its aircraft on a more direct route over Russian airspace. The carrier expects the exemption could save it 95 flight hours and 1,420l (375,000USgal) of fuel from more efficient routing on its Leipzig-Hong Kong flights during the upcoming cargo season if given the exemption. It says that the exemption would also allow it to gain new business from DHL.

Southern operates four Boeing 777 freighters on flights around the world on behalf of DHL, which include stops in Cincinnati, Leipzig, Hong Kong and Los Angeles. The carrier has provided those flights since 2011. Southern Air filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on 28 September 2012.