Major freight forwarders are increasingly creating individual international freighter routes in order to guarantee service levels to multinational shippers.

In September, Danzas AEI, the world's largest forwarder, revealed plans to set up a global network of chartered freighter operations under the Star Broker banner.

Thomas Christ, senior vice-president marketing and sales for the forwarder's Intercontinental division, said that it has already lined up to 100 widebody charters across the Pacific this winter. It will also expand its weekly Airbus A300 freighter service from Hahn, Germany to Charlotte, North Carolina, which is operated by Turkish all-cargo carrier MNG. A global co-ordinator has also been appointed for Star Broker to look at other opportunities in Europe and South America, Christ revealed.

In late October, EGL, a major US domestic forwarder which recently merged with Circle International, one of the leading global players, also started a twice-weekly transpacific freighter service between Austin, Texas and Taipei using a DC-10F leased from Gemini.

EGL has a rapidly growing point-to- point network in the US and Mexico using leased freighters, and president Jim Crane says a transatlantic freighter service could be running as early as spring.

All EGL freighter services are started for specific customers, says Crane, but he admits "once we start service on a route, it opens doors and other customers get interested." He stresses that EGL's freighter services are to complement existing airline capacity, not replace it.

Christ is more blunt, saying that "once volumes pass a certain level you can't depend on passenger-driven airlines and airports anymore, and you are driven to find your own solutions."

The archetype for both forwarders could well be Panalpina, which has being building up its own chartered freighter network for over a decade. At first this was under the Air Sea Broker banner, and more recently as SwissGlobalCargo, a joint venture with SAirLogistics, the cargo arm of Swissair.

Panalpina now openly admits that 50% of its air freight is moved by SwissGlobal services. According to Panalpina chief executive Bruno Sidler, that will rise to 75% in a few years.

Source: Airline Business