AirBridgeCargo Asia Pacific market

AirBridgeCargo (ABC) is offering its fleet for ad hoc charters, after being banned from European, US and Canadian airspace and the consequent loss of its scheduled services – and customers.

The carrier informed forwarders it was “pleased to announce B747 freighters’ availability for immediate ad-hoc charter operations”.

However, the limited regions in which they can operate – Asia, Latin America, Russia and CIS, Middle East and Africa, will not relieve the pressure on the capacity-hit European air freight market.

Beleaguered carrier ABC said it could offer 747-400Fs or -8Fs for immediate charter, in a bid to retain some revenues.

Of its 16-strong fleet of Boeings, 10 appear to be in Russia, according to flight tracking data, while two are in Hong Kong, one in Shenzhen, one in Shanghai, one in Bahrain and one in Tokyo. Japan is currently reviewing whether to follow US advice and ban Russian aircraft from its airspace. Nippon Cargo Airlines is said to have suspended services to Europe, while JAL and ANA are also considering it.

While the charters are unlikely to be attractive to European and US forwarders, both for practical and ethical reasons, most companies and countries in Asia are for the most part not taking part in sanctions.

One Singapore-based forwarder told The Loadstar: “ABC is also operating several intra-Asia routes, but these are feeder routes and most forwarders load cargo for Europe-bound destinations.”

There are also likely to be concerns over ABC’s ability to maintain its aircraft, and its lease payments. Both Airbus and Boeing yesterday stopped the supply of aircraft parts to Russian airlines, while western lessors are looking to repossess Russian-operated aircraft, and engine manufacturers are reportedly cutting off access to repair manuals and banning the servicing of engines globally.

Russian airlines are expected to begin cannibalising parked aircraft for parts, but ABC has only one parked – and it appears to be on lease.

Cargologicair (CLA) in the UK and Cargologic Germany (CLG) continue to fly, despite forwarder concerns over the definition of “Russian-linked” aircraft, which could arguably include the two carriers. One forwarder told The Loadstar he had cancelled a CLA charter to the US over fears the aircraft could be impounded. CLA currently has one aircraft in Cincinnati, while its other left Atlanta for London this morning. CLG has four aircraft operating in the EU.

Aviation lawyer Jan Nedvidek wrote on social media that he believed the Russian aviation sector has, “at best”, some three weeks before “it’s show over”.

Not only are destinations increasingly limited, and western lessors expected to terminate leases (or become criminally liable), but insurance will be hard to come by, which could block Russian-operated aircraft from any remaining international destinations. In addition, making international payments is now impossible for Russian entities, making it hard to refuel or pay airport charges.

“Even China would have to accept either a cash payment in remimbi held by the Russian Central Bank or some form of extended credit, both of which are very unlikely,” he wrote.

Staff at Russia-based Volga-Dnepr Group were said to be shocked by the invasion and “devastated” by the destruction of rival Antonov’s AN-225. The group has only just got back on its financial feet after reportedly being near bankruptcy in early 2020.

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