Northwest slashes transpac freighters

Close on the heels of the dramatic merger news, Northwest Airlines is slashing its transpacific freighter services, as the carrier becomes the latest victim of soaring fuel prices.

The carrier will be cancelling its daily B747-200F freighter service to Guangzhou from 1 July, and at the same time will remove one weekly eastbound frequency – on a Monday – from either Shanghai and Tokyo (which of the two is yet to be decided). From August, it will also be cancelling its freighterservices to and from Taipei.

The cuts will leave Northwest, whose freighters once ranged all over Asia, with just four freighter destinations in the region – Narita, Osaka, Incheon and Shanghai. It marks the end of the carrier’s strategy of hubbing into Narita and Osaka, using fifth freedom rights to carry traffic between Japan and other parts of Asia.

Tom Bach, who took over as president cargo at Northwest late last year, admits that it was in fact very difficult to compete for such intra-Asian traffic against the Japanese carriers. "The economics were not working for us; they were very effective competition," he says.

Guangzhou biggest blow
The loss of Guangzhou flights must be the biggest blow, however. Having started cargo services to the airport in 2005, it moved all of its Hong Kong freighters there in March 2007, with Jim Friedel, Northwest’s president cargo at the time, saying that Guangzhou provided "quicker and more convenient access to China’s largest market". Now Northwest will have no maindeck capacity at all to southern China, though it maintains passenger services.