Ocean Airlines of Italy has boughtfour B747-200Fs from Air France tobe delivered over the next year, withan option to buy two more. It plans touse them to start services to Nagoya,Kuala Lumpur and Seoul before theend of 2007.
The carrier, which currently has two-200Fs, currently flies four times a weekto Hong Kong, three times a week toShanghai via Bishkek. CEO Rossano deLuca says it will be seeking partners forall its new Asian routes, though can giveno details as yet. "Our philosophy is towork in partnership with establishedcarriers, rather than go against them,"he says.
Ocean has already reached agreementwith United Airlines on jointtwice a week freighter service to Washington,to start in May, and is close todeals on Nairobi and Abu Dhabi, whereits intended partners are Kenyan Airwaysand Etihad respectively.
De Luca insists Ocean will be ableto make money on the -200Fs, eventhough Air France has accelerated itsdisposal of the aircraft because it saysit can no longer make money on them,given high fuel prices.
"The problem for Air France ismore noise constraints at Paris," hesays. "We have made our business plansand it shows that we can fly the -200Fprofitably. We are also saving on capitalexpenditure to buy four -200Fs for theprice of one -400F."
He is also not worried by warnings ofgrowing over-capacity on Asian routes."Three quarters of cargo is truckedfrom Italy to other air cargo hubs, soItalian forwarders are not receiving afirst class service. We can save a dayoff transport times to Hong Kongcompared to trucking it to Frankfurt,which is why our flights are full in bothdirections and we can command goodprices."
Ocean Airlines will also be buyingAir France’s -200F flight simulator aspart of the deal, but despite this deLuca says the freighters are only part ofits business plan until 2010. "After that,we are still defining our strategy, but it could well include a change to a new aircraft type," he says.
– Peter Conway