Lufthansa Cargo has had a very long association with customers in the Indian air cargo industry ever since its launch in 1959. The airline further grew with its first freighter operations in the 1970s. Lufthansa Cargo is today offering 59 weekly flights between India and Europe including the services of Lufthansa Passenger Airlines and Austrian Airlines.
German all cargo carrier, Lufthansa Cargo, posted an operating profit of EUR 100 million in 2014, a significant improvement over the EUR 79 million in 2013. The 2014 result stood out from the competition and was achieved in a challenging market environment. The airline is continuing to systematically implement its Lufthansa Cargo 2020 future programme and expects to raise earnings even higher in the current year.
The latest success story of Lufthansa Cargo in India was scripted when the carrier greeted India with ‘Namaste’. The MD-11F with registration D-ALCJ was the star of the show at Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi recently, when the freighter was launched. It was named, ‘Namaste India’ as part of a lavish ceremony attended by Alexis von Hoensbroech, Board Member Products & Sales of Lufthansa Cargo, and Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati, union minister of civil aviation.
“Trade and commerce are the new parameters through which relations between two countries are now judged. India and Germany share a strong trade and commercial link,” said Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Civil Aviation Minister. Believing this, Lufthansa has been committed to the Indian market.
Considering the growth and focus of Lufthansa Cargo in the Indian market and sharing a moment that is filled with pride in ‘Namaste India’, Veli Polat, Regional Director, South Asia and Middle East, Lufthansa Cargo, talks about Lufthansa Cargo’s operations in India, expansion plans, focused sectors, competition and company’s 2020 strategy.
Could you highlight Lufthansa Cargo’s operational profile in India? How many freighters have you in service to and out of India? What is the total capacity that you lift?
We are quite committed to the Indian market and have a very high focus. Our presence at all the six major airports in India which covers nearly 90 per cent of the international freight clearly indicates our interest. We operate on a weekly basis, 13 cargo flights out of India beside freighter services from our joint venture partner flights of Aerologic. These flights are turnaround as well as shared between two stations. Our current freighter fleet covers Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. Our total export uplift from India is approx 55,000 tonnes per annum on all passenger and cargo flights.
Recently, the airline launched A380 in India. Have you increased the belly cargo?
A380 has the highest load factor for passengers; however, the same space in the belly is also needed to accommodate passenger baggage. We were already operating 747-800 before A380 operations out of Delhi, which is close to the cargo load available on A380 with full load, so there has been no major difference in the cargo load factor.
What is your strategy to consolidate your position in the Indian market? Any connectivity plans? What is the competitive advantage that Lufthansa Cargo will have?
Lufthansa’s presence in India has been for over 50 years which itself proves our position in Indian market. It will not be out of place to say that we brought the concept of freighter services in India. Our flexibility to operate flights on short notice is our main strength and this gives us a competitive advantage. We are trying to develop and participate in the road feeder service as this can be a key support towards connecting the smaller airports and air freight stations as well.
What sectors you are looking at?
We see tremendous scope for the courier and express industries to develop in India due to the high value goods that are now getting momentum. With the ‘Make in India’ initiative started by India’s Prime Minister and more global recognition, we feel that we will get a boost due to various industries.
Are you worried about competition from Middle East carriers?
Middle East carriers are developing at a fast pace and we have developed steadily. We are not worried about any competition but are developing and strengthening our high reliability without comprising on quality and safety.
What are the future plans of Lufthansa Cargo in India?
We have a company strategy until 2020 which covers all the important segments, i.e., new IT platform (iCAP), new cargo centre at Frankfurt airport, developing more hubs at Munich and Vienna airport, new fleet development (777), e-Cargo, which will certainly support us in every market, including India. We have plans to develop a mini hub in India, if our own as well as government policies allow for it. We are also planning to develop and provide regional connectivity from SAARC counties in near future. We would also like to develop with the strong Indian economy and feel a sense of pride to be part of this development that has had a direct impact on GDP growth.
What are your expectations from the air cargo sector in India for the year 2015?
We expect 2015 to be slightly better than 2014 and especially more growth for pharmaceutical products. India is likely to touch 30 per cent share in the US by pharma due to its total exports to the country. It is also likely to further grow by 10 per cent next year.