Fade in: Birds chirping, a beautiful pristine blue sky and blazing April sunshine fail to soften the chill in the air around Schiphol Airport on a Thursday afternoon in mid-April.
A Spring day pretty much like any other, except for the anticipation that was building outside an otherwise pretty uninteresting hotel conference room. The assembled cargo journalists had gathered for a press conference by the Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo group. On the agenda was something like the group’s performance year-to-date, cargo strategy going forward and so on. But only a couple of days prior, reports had begun to leak out that the carrier was taking a close look at its dedicated maindeck business with a view to potentially bailing out, in favour of the bellies.
Understandably then, the unspoken buzz amongst the assembled journos was probably the only thing that took the edge off the April chill outside. And while Eric Varwijk, AF-KLM-Martinair’s executive VP cargo, did indeed address the issue headon by acknowledging a review of the group’s freighter operations were underway, he also said clearly that getting out of the maindeck business altogether was within the range of options being considered.
While the AF-KLM-Martinair execs present, did an admiral job talking about their business going forward, which includes increased emphasis on specialist products like pharma and express, one couldn’t help but detect the curious scent of a foregone conclusion in the air. I can’t actually tell you what it smells like, but it has an unmistakable, if somewhat ethereal, quality to it. And indeed, it was enough to move one of the long-time cargo reporters – which I have to add that as a group, by our very nature we tend towards the stingy! – to bet a bottle of champagne with the exec VP cargo, that the next time we are beckoned for a press conference, it will be to announce the end of the line for freighter operations within the group.