KIERAN DALY / LONDON
Carrier to start operations with two Boeing 747-200Fs, adding one a year to 2010
Russian outsize freight specialist Volga-Dnepr will in April launch a scheduled operation branded Air Bridge Cargo (ABC) which, it believes, will account for 70% of revenues within a decade.
The airline is acquiring two Boeing 747-200Fs and expects to add around one a year through to 2010, with more than 20 mid-size Russian freighters for feeder services.
Initial routes will comprise Luxembourg-Moscow Domodedovo-Shanghai and Luxembourg-Novosibirsk-Tianjin, China.
Rapid growth in South-East Asian and south-east European markets via the initial two Russian hubs, plus Khabarovsk, is then planned. ABC will loosely co-operate with Cargolux. Operations from Khabarovsk to New York, Chicago and other US cities are planned.
Volga-Dnepr hired former Atlas Air executives Stanley Wraight and Peter Yap to create the new operation after concluding there was no suitable expertise in Russia.
Group president Alexey Isaikin says: "ABC is synergetic with our core business. Most customers will be the same companies, so we use the same sales and marketing network." He is unconcerned by the difficulties faced by all-cargo, long-haul carriers in recent years, saying: "Their strategies were wrong. Airlines were formed with strategies that were not for the long-term. People had a strategy of developing an operation a little bit and then closing it down. We are determined to develop a long-term business.
"The crucial thing is the professionalism of the management. For the last three years I have spent 50% of my time with head-hunters and dealing with personnel."
Finance is coming mostly in the form of loans, but Isaikin adds: "We are also conducting negotiations with potential investors - who are also potential customers."
The first two aircraft are coming from Alitalia, although Volga-Dnepr will not confirm this. It says Boeing is asking too high a price for new 747-400Fs, but it may acquire freight-converted 747-400s.