EUROPEAN AIR CARGO~ Russia plays hard-ball with Lufthansa

Russia's withdrawal of over-flight rights for Lufthansa Cargo temporarily left the carrier high and dry until threats of retaliatory action by Germany saw the action reversed. But the high-level spat is far from over as Heiner Siegmund reports.

The Russian transport ministry reinstated Lufthansa Cargo’s overflight rights until 29 February 2008 after imposing a ban on 28 October with only very shortnotice.

As a consequence, the quarrel between the German carrier and the Russian side regarding royalties and traffic conditions has been soothed for the time being, but basically remains unsettled.

Moscow still demands the landing of Lufthansa (LH) Cargo either in Krasnoyarsk or Novosibirsk, in exchange for prolonging the right to overfly Russian territory for an indefinite period. Affected are 49 flights per week that the carrier presently operates via Astana in Kazakhstan en route to and from Asia.

Technical stops that include substantial sums of money – be it the expenditures for refueling the MD-11 freighters with over 90,000 tonnes of kerosene annually or the 4,000 hotel rooms that have to be booked yearly to accommodate the crews during their stay. Last but not least, there is the package of landing and handling fees the carrier has to pay for each flight.

"We principally could consider moving from our present hub Astana in Kazakhstan to one of the Siberian airports if the ground infrastructure there is upgraded and would fit both our commercial and operational requirements," LH Cargo spokesman Nils Haupt said in reaction to the Russian offensive.