Russia's Volga-Dnepr enjoys charter boom because of coronavirus crisis
VOLGA-DNEPR's charter chief Konstantin Vekshin says the group is well positioned to meet any coronavirus-related cargo capacity shortages, reported London's Air Cargo News
VOLGA-DNEPR's charter chief Konstantin Vekshin says the group is well positioned to meet any coronavirus-related cargo capacity shortages, reported London's Air Cargo News.
The company had started to anticipate the complications that the virus would cause in terms of keeping crew safe from infection and making sure equipment was properly sanitised, Mr Vekshin said.
In terms of capacity, the airline group currently operates 16 Boeing 747s, eight An-124s and three IL-76s across AirBridgeCargo and Volga-Dnepr.
Before, it operated 21 B747s but this was lowered in line with the market conditions at the end of last year.
Meanwhile, one of its An-124s has had its capacity boosted by 30 tonnes to 150 tonnes and another will be increased by the end of May.
On the market this year, he said that there was not an unexpected spike in westbound demand after factories in China started to resume production following a protracted Lunar New Year break.
In the opposite direction, however, there has been an early increase in demand to meet requirements for medical products in China.
'We are now seeing more and more cargo coming in both directions,' Mr Vekshin was quoted as saying. 'And we are anticipating additional demand in relation to outbound cargo. We are also anticipating what is going to happen in Europe over the coming weeks.
'We are ready and will unleash our entire fleet to help customers and continue to support the bridges that we have been building over the last 30 years.'
He added that while demand has not reached the level of the US west coast container port strikes of a few years ago, enquiries continue to roll in and forwarders are being pro-active.
'Customers are contacting us and we are explaining what sort of availability we have, our reaction times, the specifics of the type of cargo we are going to move, whether that is related to coronavirus directly - like bare essentials or even fully-assembled mobile hospitals - or spare parts, assembly parts or components.'
The group is also increasing the availability of aircraft for charter and cutting back on scheduled operations.
Mr Vekshin said market demand was harder to foresee. 'The demands are very specific right now, reaction times need to be different, flexibility should be different.
'The decision to switch gears in the direction of dedicated charters, ad hoc flights, has been dictated by the market,' he said.