Andrzej Jeziorski/MUNICH

Lufthansa Cargo has revealed a "turnaround after two difficult years" in 1997, but warns that the air freight market remains uncertain.

Profits for 1997 are expected to exceed DM100 million ($61.7 million) while yields in the fourth quarter showed a 10% improvement on the previous year. Board member for personnel and commercial administration Walter Gehl warns against complacency, however. "Major external factors like currency movements and the situation in Asia remain uncertain and competition is increasingly fierce," he says.

The airline says that the 1997 improvement is because of a range of factors, including favourable exchange rates, the sale in 1996 of the airline's McDonnell Douglas DC-8 fleet, more intensive use of Boeing 747-200s, reduced unit costs and a "cautious" staffing policy.

Provisional financial results are expected this month, but profit for the first three-quarters reached DM100.4 million, and the fourth quarter has also yielded "positive" results. Freight tonnage carried in 1997 rose slightly by 0.3% compared with the previous year, to 1,690 million tonnes, with capacity up 2.8%, but average load factors dropped by 0.8% to 68.4%.

The company is now planning to introduce a new time-definite product portfolio from the third quarter in an attempt to improve its standing in the market still further. All of the company's services will offer customers guaranteed delivery within a given timeframe.

The services will include "much improved" tracking of cargo, guaranteed access to aircraft capacities and performance guarantees. They will initially be introduced in the "major international growth markets", before gradually becoming available worldwide.

Source: Flight International