Lufthansa Cargo continues to expect high air freight demand

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In the corona crisis, the Lufthansa Group alone is enjoying the freight division. Because passenger flights will hardly increase in the foreseeable future, demand continues to exceed supply.

Frankfurt / Main (dpa) – Lufthansa expects high demand for air freight even in a long corona crisis. The most important reason is the significantly lower number of passenger flights in the foreseeable future, which otherwise also carry a lot of freight, said Lufthansa Cargo CEO Peter Gerber.

He therefore expects a clear excess demand in the aviation industry in the coming months. “Half of the capacity was gone within two weeks,” says Gerber of the severe market disruption caused by the pandemic in March. Until then, about half of the global air freight had been transported in the bellies of the passenger aircraft. At the same time, orders for certain goods, such as medical equipment or protective masks, have skyrocketed, so that freight rates on certain connections have risen sharply.

“Even now, the prices in the market are higher than they were before, simply because there is so little capacity,” said Gerber. Despite higher prices, the business is not a sure-fire success: “We have a cost apparatus for 100 percent of the capacity, but only fly a little more than 60 percent with very good occupancy of our holds.”

The demand for medical equipment is over, the manager reported. «What is needed now goes back to the ship. The use of passenger planes as freighters, the fast so-called splinters, is no longer worthwhile for us. » According to Gerber, the Lufthansa Group had in the meantime more than 20 unused passenger planes in cargo use. At the same cost, however, these planes have only a quarter of the loading capacity of conventional cargo planes.

The lack of passenger connections is also noticeable in Lufthansa Cargo’s current network offering. «We all reach the freight hotspots of this world like Tokyo, Chicago, Shanghai as high-frequency as it should be, but at the moment we can’t fly to some interesting places. We sometimes have to fit in there, »reports Gerber. The goal is a stable and dense network. But 40 percent of the capacity was permanently lacking as long as intercontinental passenger traffic did not recover.

“A fully occupied belly market like before the crisis will not come back anytime soon,” said Gerber. “If there is then freight demand in other places, there could well be a small renaissance of pure freight machines.” In the medium term, even with a shrinking export economy, the space available will remain significantly smaller than the transport demand. No decision has yet been taken on additional cargo planes at Lufthansa.

When industrial production was restarted, there could be minor disruptions in many places, which would have to be remedied quickly, said the new president of the Federal Association of the German Aviation Industry. Unforeseen events are usually favorable for air freight. “It doesn’t help if you issue an order for a couple of containers that arrive eight weeks later.”

In the Lufthansa Group, which was saved by the state with billions in aid, the cargo division also has to save, despite the comparatively good business situation. A program had already been started before Corona to reduce the workforce of 4,500 people by 500 jobs. This will continue to be implemented and supplemented by flexible short-time work.

“Of course we work briefly where there is no volume,” Gerber said of the situation. «There is a pure Belly fleet in Munich, but there is currently little flying, so work is very short there. All freighters fly in Frankfurt, so you can achieve less with short-time work. Business is booming in China, and there are no flights at individual stations in the USA. If the Bellys come back step by step, we will take back the short-time work. »

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