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Aeroflot Says "Do Svidaniya" to Cargo Aircraft

The Russian carrier intends ceasing operation of MD-11 freighters. Effective utilization has become too costly, sources say.

Aeroflot intends ceasing operation of its MD-11 freighters.

Aeroflot Cargo boss Oleg Korolev sat silent and stiff in his small chair. He did not utter a single word unlike most other executives of the SkyTeam Cargo alliance during the China Airlines Cargo welcoming party held last week at Munich’s trade show, Transport Logistic. Meanwhile, however, it has become clear why Korolev preferred keeping his lips tightly sealed at the well-attended event: Aeroflot’s executive board has decided to ground its fleet of three MD-11freighters, although this decision has not yet been formally announced. According to internal sources the aircraft will become obsolete because operating them has proven to be a financial bottomless barrel. A manager close to the decision told CargoForwarder that Aeroflot intends sidelining the aircraft one by one in the desert. Most likely this will be the aircraft boneyard Victorville in the Southern California Mojave region, where many carriers store their planes since the local weather conditions with low humidity and moderate temperatures are ideal for conserving jetliners. As CargoForwarder was told, the first freighter will be taken out of the fleet in mid-June, with units number two and three following successively in the months after. Parking them in the desert is cheaper than returning them straight to Boeing Capital, whom they were leased from, because in that case Aeroflot would be liable for high compensatory payments until the end of the leasing term.

The MD-11Fs replaced the former fleet of DC-10Fs in 2008, where this freighter variant was successively phased in. Since then the aircraft link Frankfurt-Hahn airport via Moscow Sheremetyevo International with various destination in East Asia. Hahn used to be Aeroflot Cargo’s main European hub, but has lately been served only sporadically, confirms the airport’s spokesperson Bianca Waters. However, losing the Moscow-headquartered airline as customer is a second major setback for Hahn in the last months, after Air Cargo Germany’s insolvency announcement only weeks ago.

Last year, Aeroflot’s cargo division reported transporting 194.000 tons of cargo, a decrease of almost 25 percent on 2011, local sources reveal. So far, the three MD-11Fs accounted for almost half (48 percent) of the total volumes lifted by the airline. The other half is carried in the lower deck compartments of Aeroflot’s passenger fleet.

The forthcoming end of the Russian carrier’s main deck era doesn’t mean a complete withdrawal from the air freight biz. Instead, Aeroflot will continue offering the market lower deck capacity on board their passenger fleet which currently comprises 136 aircraft.

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(Cargo Forwarder vom 11.06.2013)