AirBridge Cargo has announced anorder for five 747-8 freighters with fiveoptions, for delivery between 2010 and2013. The order was in fact confirmedin November, but had been kept underwraps for political reasons, due to adispute between the Russian governmentand Aeroflot over whether toorder Boeing or Airbus aircraft for itspassenger fleet.
AirBridge is also due to get the firstof three B747-400ERFs in November,with the others coming in Februaryand April 2008. These will be usedto launch the carrierÂ¡Â¯s long-promisedservices from China to North Americavia Krasnoyarsk in Siberia. The initialroute will be from Shanghai to Krasnoyarskand Toronto, returning viaHouston, Amsterdam and Krasnoyarskto Shanghai.
The use of the second and thirdERFs has not yet finally been decided,according to Stan Wraight, presidentand CEO of AirBridge Cargo, but couldbe used to add a second US destination,to start services to India, or to boostfrequencies to Hong Kong. The latterdestination is currently served five timesa week by AirBridge, though Wraightsays in fact the frequency is in practiceoften boosted to seven times a week.
The carrier has also just takendelivery of two 1992-built NCA -200Fs,but these are being used to replace twoolder aircraft of the same type, whichhave been sold to Belgium start-upairline CargoB, for delivery in September.In the medium term, the carrierstill hopes to replace all its four -200Fs with -400F conversions, but Wraightsays the economics are not right atthe moment.
Despite selling two aircraft to CargoB,Wraight says there are plans toboost the destinations served by thefour -200Fs in the AirBridge fleet,with Tel Aviv and Budapest high onthe list. The latter destination is beingconsidered because AirBridge partnerKras Air has recently bought Malev, theHungarian carrier, while Tel Aviv hasstrong perishables and hi-tech trafficto Moscow.
He also wants to boost Amsterdamfrom three times a week to daily, buthas given up on plans to fly to LondonHeathrow. Â¡Â°It is two hours extraflying time compared to Amsterdam,and it is not worth the trouble,Â¡Â± hesays. Â¡Â°We have the rights but it is nota priority.Â¡Â±
Last but not least, AirBridge continuesto wait impatiently for the deliveryof three TU-204s it has ordered so that it can start regional freighterservices from Krasnoyarsk into China.It has rights for Tianjin, Nanjin,Shenyang, Dalian, Qingdao. Wraight saysif production of the aircraft is delayedmuch longer, the carrier will drylease aircraft Â¨C either TU204s, A300,A310s or 757s.
– Peter Conway