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A Cargolux board meeting to be held today could be critical in cementing the future of the company. While the deal with HNCA looks set to be signed next year, many of the carrier’s staff and management are hoping that a string of good results, and outstanding questions over the HNCA bid, could still take the deal off the table.

The commercial agreement with China’s HNCA is still under review by management and legal advisers, and there is also the possibility that HNCA could reject Cargolux’s amendments.

One source at the company said: “The probability is very high that this deal will go through, even though many of us are still fighting to prevent it.”

He added that today’s traditionally unlucky date, Friday 13th, could in fact turn out to be either lucky or “the final nail in the coffin”.

Earlier this week, the carrier reported a 27% increase in volumes, year-on-year, in November, carrying more than 74,000 tonnes of freight. October’s volume growth was more than 20% up on last year, and full year results are expected to be higher than the original forecast. The good results have given some staff hope that the carrier can continue without an investor.

While there remains much internal resistance to the HNCA deal, there are “greater forces at play” according to one Luxembourg source. Luxembourg – along with other European countries – is keen to become a financial centre for the yuan and to align itself closely with China. There is some suspicion that other offers for Cargolux were not considered closely, as the government only had eyes for HNCA.

But while the carrier’s medium-term future may still be in doubt, its longer-term outlook is becoming clearer. While there has been much media attention on Amazon’s delivery drone plan, and DHL earlier this week tested a “parcelkopter’, Cargolux is betting on the future of airships.

Today the carrier announced that it had signed an MoU with Aeroscraft, the makers of a variable-buoyancy cargo airship.

The airship, originally funded with $35m from the US military, has vertical take-off and landing capabilities and can carry heavy and outsize cargo, with the payload able to be changed at the touch of a button.

Aeros, the company behind the airship, plans to have 22 ready to operate in 2016. The 66-ton capacity airship will have a range of 3,100 nautical miles, while a 250-ton version will be able to cover more than 5,000 nautical miles. Aeros added that it could reach any destination within 72 hours – some media reports state it can travel at 100 miles per hour. The company won an FAA airworthiness certificate in August, allowing it to operate the  266ft airship in designated controlled airspace for research and development.

The airship fleet will operate on an ACMI basis, which is where Cargolux comes in. As well as being a launch partner, the airline will offer support and expertise in airfreight logistics. In a statement, interim president and CEO Richard Forson said the carrier was “excited to further explore client solutions surrounding the introduction of this innovative new type of aircraft”.

Aeros, which has achieved “multiple FAA airship type certificates”, said the airship was “poised to disrupt the current hub-and-spoke distributional model… and introduce point-to-point air cargo delivery services”.

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  • David Harris

    December 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Looks like CV’s Board of Directors officially approved the HNCA deal today. I don’t know if that means Friday the 13th was lucky or unlucky, and if so, for whom — I guess we’ll have to wait a year or two to find out.

    And regarding the Aeros airship, I believe Icelandair also signed a deal with Aeros recently.