cma cgm air cargo

A statement from CMA CGM Air Cargo on flight schedules has added to the confusion surrounding its operations.

Last week, Freightwaves reported the carrier had cut its scheduled operations to Atlanta and Chicago. It has six freighters – four A330s and two 777s – but appears to be operating only two on its own behalf.

One A330 and one 777F are flying under Qatar Airways Cargo flight numbers, the first between Brussels and Doha and the second between points in Eastern Europe and Doha.

Two other A330Fs are operating under DHL’s EAT Leipzig code, one flying every day between Cincinnati and Brussels and one operating to Miami and Cincinnati from Brussels.

Just two aircraft are flying under CMA’s flight numbers: one 777F between Hong Kong and Paris; and one A330F between Cairo and Paris.

However, when questioned, CMA CGM said it had stopped its US flying for technical reasons, to allow the aircraft to be “repatriated”.

It said: “Since the approval of its French air operator’s certificate on 1 June, CMA CGM Air Cargo has started to repatriate its four A330-200Fs to its new hub at Paris-CDG Airport. For each aircraft to be repatriated, there is a technical and administrative process to go through which requires downtime.

“Due to the logistics of this operation, CMA CGM Air Cargo had to interrupt its services to the US for several weeks. This suspension was only temporary and CMA CGM Air Cargo will resume its cargo flights towards the United States in the coming weeks.”

But with three of its A330Fs apparently leased to other carriers, none of which appear to be operating from Paris, the statement is confusing at best. And none of the aircraft appears to have had “downtime”, according to flight tracking websites.

CMA did not mention its 777Fs and had not responded to a question concerning its agreements with Qatar Airways and EAT Leipzig before publication today.

It brings into question CMA’s commitment to air cargo in a depressed market, a situation which came sooner than many people expected.

While CMA CGM has insisted it will run its own airline, it has also signed a commercial agreement with Air France-KLM to allow that carrier to sell CMA’s capacity – but it has three months before it can rely on that expertise. According to AF-KLM, the “target start date of our partnership is 1 April 2023”.

The air cargo industry is well known for being tough on the uninitiated. As David Hoppin, MD of Airline Strategy Group, noted on social media, in relation to CMA CGM Air Cargo: “Some years ago, a wise person observed about the freighter business – “those who dabble, die”.

“It’s a tough business for established competitors, and nigh impossible for newcomers that aren’t ready to stay the course through cyclical downturns and inevitable setbacks.”

CMA is likely to be hoping the AF-KLM relationship starts sooner rather than later.

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