Shenzhen-based Jade Cargo international had been forced to ground one brand new B747-400ERF due to severe pilot shortage. This was confi rmed by the carrier’s VP sales and marketing, Reto Hunziker at a recent press meeting held by the members of the Lufthansa Cargo group in Munich. “We hope to overcome this unexpected problem soon and get the freighter airborne by August or September latest,” Hunziker stated ina separate interview with Payload Asia.
According to the manager, around 50 pilots are presently listed on Jade’s payroll. The airline however, needs as many as 65 to 70 captains and fi rst offi cers to operate all four B747-400ERFs that have been delivered by Boeing up to now out of a total order of six aircraft. The lack of cockpit personnel has been caused by a number of reasons. One severe problem is the absence of adequate simulators for the B747-400ERF at Chinese civil aviation facilities. According to local sources there is an extremely limited number of simulators that can be utilised for training sessions. Consequently, candidates have to stand in line to obtain a slot forgetting practical instructions.
The situation is worsened by the fact that only two instructors have the offi cial authorisation to license any new 747-400ERF cockpit crew member. Since China’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) demands special training programmes from all candidates that enroll for operating a Chinese registered aircraft, regardless if foreign pilots have already obtained a valid license for the B747-400ERF elsewhere, a bottleneck situation has been created costing airlineslike Jade money.
An alternative for carriers that have B747-400ERF in their fl eet would be to poach licensed Chinese pilots from one of the major national airlines. This however, is a costly venture since the hiring enterprise would have to pay a transfer fee to the CAAC for compensating the state expenditures in training courses.“The amount could be as much asUS$400,000 for contracting one singleB747-400 captain,” Hunziker confi rmed.Too high a price for Jade, obviously.
The carrier’s situation will ease later this year when enough trained cockpit crews will be available. By then the fi fth B747-400F will be deployed, followed by number six in spring 2008. Asked by Payload Asia about some original plans to increase Jade’s fl eet with medium sized freighters like the A330-200F or B767F for inner Asian fl ights, Hunziker said the idea had been “put on ice” for the time being. “First we have to learn how to walk, after we can commence to run,” said the manager somehow cryptic.
Another topic at Lufthansa Cargo’s Munich press meeting was the airline’s plan to heavily engage in India. “There, we might copy our successful Chinese model with horizontal and vertical joint ventures on the ground and in the air,” announced CEO Carsten Spohr. In practice this could lead to a Jade II cargo airline, Spohr indicated. Another option could be to establish close ties with one of the local passenger airlines and have their air freight business managed entirely by LH Cargo.
Said Spohr: “Which path we will ultimately follow sooner or later depends very much on our future partner.” He confi rmed that talks with Mumbai-based Jet Airways are under way but gave no further details. Swiss Cargo’s chief Oliver Evans lauded the family concept of the Lufthansa Cargo group. To integrate the services of Swiss WorldCargo with the portfolios of participants like the ULD manager Jettainer, same day and emergency logistics specialist Time: Matters or the Lufthansa Cargo Charter Agency in addition with the multi-hub strategy (Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich) of LH Cargo and Swiss leads to a lot of synergies for the entire group. “Others just carry cargo as a by-product without knowing the cost structure. Not us,” he said. “Without carrying air freight we would go bankrupt.”
Evans announced the introduction of two additional passenger aircraft A340 to Swiss’ fl eet that will be deployed on intercontinental routes such as Zurich- Shanghai. “Due to the belly hold space of these two planes we lift our entire air freight capacity by ten to twelve percent,” he stated. During the past quarters the carrier’s average load factor on intercontinental routes swung between 85 and 90 percent – a comparatively formidable level for the air freight industry.
The manager confi rmed the carrier’s strategy by concentrating on high quality niche products like valuables, temperature sensitive items or express shipments to best serve the “care intensive markets and provide further value for the customers.” To improve electronic booking and reservation processes a new IT-platform is presently being implemented and will be fully operational by next year. – Heiner Siegmund