Aeroflot begins new era with MD-11Fs

DESPITE fuel now accounting for 60 per cent of operating costs, Aeroflot Cargo is pressing ahead with an expansion and re-equipment plan. It is expecting delivery of two Ilyushin Il-96-400T freighters in August-September, with four more to come. One of the Russian carrier’s first two MD-11 freighters, was formally welcomed to Hahn Airport last month. It will receive four more of these by the end of 2009. The previous widebody freighter fleet of four DC-10-40Fs is being phased out.The two Il-96s were previously destined for Atlant-Soyuz, and had already been painted in the other Russian carrier’s colours. But the deal between Atlant-Soyuz and lessor Ilyushin Finance Company, fell through last April and Aeroflot Cargo agreed to take the aircraft ahead of schedule, according to managing director Oleg Korolev.
Korolev refused to comment on a suggestion that Aeroflot Cargo had agreed with the Russian government to take the Il-96s early, in return for the granting of import and operating permits for the MD-11Fs. Their introduction was stalled for months while the carrier negotiated for these. They are now flying a five-times-weekly schedule, between Hahn and Hong Kong via Moscow and Almaty. They will also soon replace the DC-10s to the carrier’s other destinations in Asia: Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Tokyo.In the event, Aeroflot Cargo is not formally importing the first three MD-11Fs, which are being leased from Boeing Capital. Like the DC-10-40s, they will be registered in Bermuda. But this means that they cannot fly on domestic routes. Aeroflot Cargo is keen to expand freighter service to the Russian interior. The Il-96s will assume that task. Aeroflot Cargo launched a Moscow-Yakutsk-Khabarovsk service last March, and is planning to serve other destinations in Siberia.Novosibirsk is already served as a refuelling stop on the flights to and from North Asia. Last April, Aeroflot Cargo inserted Almaty as a stop on the Hong Kong flights. “We’ve done good business to Almaty and the fuel is cheaper in Kazakhstan than elsewhere,” said Korolev. Ironically, the Russian government is forcing Lufthansa Cargo to switch the refuelling stop on its Asian flights to Krasnoyarsk in Siberia from Astana, which is also in Kazakhstan.Aeroflot Cargo is the biggest cargo carrier at Hahn, contributing just under 50,000 of the total 120,000 tonnes that was flown through the German airport last year. Korolev said that imports to Russia from both Europe and Asia, were making up for the recent decline in Asia/Europe traffic. In fact, he noted the carrier’s yields from Asia to Moscow, were as good as they were from Asia to Europe. Exports from Russia grew 26 per cent in the first half of 2008, but are still relatively small, he added.

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