Global logistics giant Panalpina and U.S. cargo airline Atlas Air are strengthening their long-standing partnership in the air cargo industry, with a new five-year agreement which envisages Panalpina expanding its “controlled” network of air cargo services.
“The new long-term agreement with Atlas Air will intensify our cooperation and increase our joint business,” says Lucas Kuehner, global head of air freight at Panalpina.
“The switch from one of our wet-leased 747-8Fs to more than 200 scheduled full charters per year as part of this agreement equals a change in our procurement strategy and prepares the ground for the continued expansion of our controlled air freight network,” adds Kuehner.
As a cornerstone of the new five-year agreement, Panalpina will return one of two Boeing 747-8F freighters it wet-leases from Atlas Air and replace it with 200 whole-capacity charters a year flown by Atlas Air Boeing 747-400F freighters.
From March, these Boeing 747-400F freighter flights will operate two one-way scheduled-charter flights each week on Panalpina’s Hong Kong-Huntsville route, according to Panalpina spokesman Sandro Hofer.
Panalpina will charter the entire capacity of a 747-400F for each of these flights, says Matthias Frey, global head of Panalpina’s controlled air freight network.
In this manner, “We will not only maintain our scheduled capacity for our customers on the transpacific route but are planning to extend this service together with Atlas Air,” says Frey.
The wet-leased 747-8F which Panalpina is returning to Atlas Air ‒ an aircraft which currently operates in Panalpina livery and is named ‘Passion for Solutions’ ‒ has been operating the company’s “world rotation”, according to Hofer.
This involves a Hong Kong-Huntsville-Houston-Luxembourg-Abu Dhabi-Dammam-Hong Kong routing.
(Atlas Air has agreed a new wet-lease of the returned Panalpina aircraft with DHL Express, to replace a 747-400F it now operates for that company in transpacific service. This was revealed in the 2014 annual financial-results news release issued by the carrier’s Purchase, New York-based parent company Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings on February 12. As a result, Atlas Air will be operating three 747-8Fs on a wet-lease basis for DHL Express by March.)
Panalpina operates two sizable air cargo hubs, one at Huntsville International Airport in Alabama and the other, even larger hub at Luxembourg Findel Airport’s massive, recently expanded “cargocentre”.
At the Huntsville hub, the company operates flights to and from Luxembourg and Mexico and receives inbound flights from Hong Kong.
Meanwhile, at Luxembourg Findel Airport, Panalpina operates flights on its Controlled Air Freight Network to West Africa and the Middle East.
A critical, backbone route for Panalpina’s Controlled Air Freight Network is its twice-weekly Luxembourg-Huntsville round-trip. Some of the flights also include stops in Mexico and at London Stansted Airport in the UK. Panalpina’s eastbound Huntsville-Luxembourg flight also routes via Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport.
The other Boeing 747-8 Freighter that Panalpina wet-leases from Atlas Air, which also flies in Panalpina colors and is named ‘Spirit of Panalpina’, is dedicated to operating this route. Panalpina’s new five-year agreement with Atlas Air confirms the continued wet-lease of this aircraft for the Luxembourg-Huntsville-Mexico service.
Meanwhile, Panalpina will replace the returned 747-8F’s Houston-Luxembourg-Abu Dhabi-Dammam oil-related flying with “a commercial solution” which is yet to be decided, according to Hofer.
However, the Dammam-Hong Kong sector on the current “world rotation” is largely a positioning flight and will be dropped from the end of February, when Panalpina returns the 747-8F ‘Passion for Solutions’ to Atlas Air, according to Hofer.
With this new set-up, Panalpina will effectively increase the capacity it offers on its Controlled Air Freight Network and expand the network as well, Hofer says.
The company’s controlled air freight network already accounts for 15 per cent of Panalpina’s air freight volumes each year and is unique in the industry, according to the company.
Within this network, Panalpina controls a series of scheduled charters using different air cargo carriers, leased aircraft, ground handling and flight operations.
For instance, Panalpina operates a ‘Caribbean Star’ air cargo service, which involves scheduled charters of a Cargolux Boeing 747-400F.
It also operates a ‘Panda Star’ branded service between Luxembourg and China, operated on a scheduled-charter basis with Boeing 747-400 Bedek Special Freighters (747-400 passenger jets converted to freighters by Bedek Aviation in Israel) operated by Chinese air cargo carrier Yangtze River Express.
In addition, Panalpina offers an ‘African Star’ scheduled-charter service between Luxembourg and West African destinations. For this service, Panalpina contracts scheduled charters of Boeing/McDonnell Douglas MD-11F freighters operated by Ethiopian Cargo.