Air France-KLM Cargo sticks with maindeck

The Air France-KLM-Martinair (AF-KLM-MA) Cargo group has no plans to exit the maindeck market despite recently announcing plans to cut as much as 30 per cent of its full freighter capacity within the next two years and sharply increasing its focus on belly capacity. Donald Urquhart reports from Amsterdam.

Air France-KLM Cargo sticks with maindeck

The freighter fleet reduction will begin first at the group’s French hub at Paris’ CDG airport with two Air France B747- 400 freighters being retired. The move will leave just two B777Fs still operating under Air France livery and will take the percentage of belly/freighter cargo now at 80/20 respectively, from 50/50 a few years ago, to 90/10 by 2015.

Meanwhile over at the group’s Schiphol hub, maindeck reduction will see one B747-400ERF cut loose through an early termination option in its lease agreement and one MD11 which will be retired, leaving three B747-400Fs and five MD11Fs in operation. This will see the belly/freighter balance of KLM-MA shift to 70/30 respectively with the remaining freighters flying until at least 2020, Varwijk said.

KLM’s 17-strong, B747-400 Combi fleet – a historical legacy that sees KLM as the largest and one of the last operators of this unique aircraft type – will also be gradually phased out between 2016 and 2020 due to the age of the aircraft.

“It is still pretty far away and so we are still contemplating how to do that,” said Varwijk. “There are not any new Combies coming on the market so it makes us an extinct Combi operator. We always liked them for their versatility because it was possible to fly a mid-sized passenger aircraft long range and at the same time operate a mini freighter.” But with no inclination by either Boeing or Airbus to revisit this aircraft type, and new aircraft with ample belly space for cargo, Varwijk notes the “game is changing”.