DHL Express will move its US gateway from partner ABX Air's hub in Wilmington, Ohio to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International airport in Hebron, Kentucky because DHL has exited US domestic operations in favour of international opportunities.

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International is the right size for international operations, a DHL spokesman explains.

The move is expected to finish by late summer, after which ABX Air flights under its DHL aircraft, crew maintenance and insurance (ACMI) agreement will operate from the Cincinnati, Ohio area airport.

ABX Air parent Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) says it does not expect the move to impact the ACMI agreement, which runs through 15 August 2010.

Unless one-year notice is given stating otherwise, the ACMI will automatically renew for three years. But plans for the cargo operator have been uncertain following the decision of DHL, its largest customer, to exit the US domestic market starting 30 January 2009.

"DHL hasn't said what they want to do longer term," ATSG CFO Quint Turner told ATI last month.

Any job cuts resulting from the shift to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International will be in addition to the nearly 4,000 jobs in total that ABX Air eliminated as the 16 hubs it operated for DHL closed.

"We stand to lose 1,000 to 1,500 employees with this move," an ABX Air spokeswoman says.

Meanwhile, ATSG is preparing to launch a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) venture at the DHL-owned airpark in Wilmington next month.

Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services (AMES) will offer heavy maintenance, component repair and engineering and manufacturing services in the hangars currently occupied by ABX Air.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news