Newcomer ACG ready for take-off

A BRAND-NEW long-haul widebody freighter airline, called Air Cargo Germany (ACG), intends to start operations second half of January 2009 by deploying two leased B747-400SFs from its base at Hahn, Germany. The aircraft, formerly belonging to Taiwan’s China Airlines, have been converted on behalf of Avion Aircraft Trading from passenger to freighter configuration by IAI-Bedek in Israel.

To step into the market, ACG will first offer its B747-400SF capacity to brokers for charter services. Additionally, beginning next April, ACG intends to commence scheduled services by flying from Hahn via Moscow to Shanghai. A further route will planned in 2009 is Hahn-Istanbul-Hong Kong.

Following the introduction of these initial routes ACG is considering a number of possibilities for further expansion in the medium-term perspectives, depending on how business is proceeding and the prevailing market conditions, with possibilities including India and Latin America as additional markets to serve. “Then we will have to add further aircraft to our fleet,” said Michael Bock, chief executive officer, in an exclusive interview for Air Cargo News.

In addition to these line-haul flights, ACG will continue to place their capacity partially in the charter market, creating a split business model consisting of both scheduled and charter flights. “Presently we are in final negotiations with some charter brokers for marketing our capacity,” said Thomas Homering, managing director. Both Bock and Homering, former LTU executives, established the enterprise last June in Bad Kreuznach, southwest Germany.

Homering and Bock consider Lufthansa Cargo as one of the major competitors. “They are huge and we are only a small niche player. However, while talking to agents quite a number strongly emphasised that they would prefer to have a choice between two different German capacity providers to carry their airfreight.”

ACG emphasises its ambition to be a small and very lean player and therefore having a favourable cost structure. In addition “we are based in Hahn and not in Frankfurt, which makes it less costly for us due to lower charges for infrastructure and handling of shipments”, Bock said.

Hahn, unlike Frankfurt, does not have intentions to impose any night flight curfew but guarantees the airlines departures and landings around the clock.

Presently around 15 licensed B747-400 pilots are on ACG’s payroll. About the same number of captains and first officers are needed to commence schedules services with the freighters. “There is a broad range of applicants we can choose from. Some of them are early retired captains from other airlines who don’t want to sit at home but to continue flying, others are eager to come back to Germany after they had flown for a long time for some foreign carriers,” said Homering.

To fill the 747s with boxes and pallets, ACG intends to acquire as many block space agreements as possible. Negotiations with agents are well under way. Bock says: “We not only welcome the big boys for signing agreements and entrust us their shipments, but also the medium-size and smaller forwarders.”

Bock is majority stakeholder of ACG, with Irish investor City Leasing Ltd, holding a minority of the capital. However, much of the money appears to have come from the owner of Vim Airlines and Russian Sky Airlines in Russia. The management team includes Andrey Goryashko, Alexander Kirichenko and Alexej Prikhodchenko – former Aeroflot Cargo executives. In fact, Goryashko was previously general manager of the Russian airfreight carrier. “Reason for hiring them is their market expertise and their profound knowledge of the global forwarding industry,” said Homering. The trio will soon move from Moscow to Hahn.

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