Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Air France-KLM and CMA CGM activate cargo partnership

Air France-KLM and ocean shipping and logistics provider CMA CGM on Monday announced the launch of a 10-year alliance between their air cargo divisions under which they will jointly market freighter capacity, and combine networks and dedicated services to increase scale and competitiveness.

The strategic partnership, which was made public in May 2022, includes Martinair Cargo, an Air France-KLM all-cargo subsidiary. It has actually been live for a month, according to the Air France-KLM Martinair Cargo website.

The companies said they had received all regulatory approvals to proceed with the deal, which aims to leverage each party’s respective strengths. Together the companies will share the space of a dozen freighters and have 14 more freighters being built.

Air France-KLM has decades of cargo experience, especially in specialized cargo such as pharmaceuticals, perishables and express consignments, established hubs in Paris and Amsterdam, and an extensive passenger network with more than 160 long-haul aircraft. CMA CGM Air Cargo brings new routes from Paris to Hong Kong and, beginning April 11, to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and Guangzhou, China. Tentative plans call for another freighter to begin serving Shanghai in late May. 

Paris-based CMA CGM Air Cargo is a startup company that began operating in early 2022 and now owns four Airbus A330s and two large Boeing 777 freighters. It has two more 777s on order from Boeing and an order with Airbus for four all-new A350 freighters.

CMA CGM moved into the air cargo realm as part of a strategy, also pursued by shipping rival Maersk — and to a lesser degree Mediterranean Shipping Co. — to be an integrated logistics provider capable of meeting any customer requirement and guaranteeing capacity with own-controlled assets.

The Air France-KLM Group operates six cargo jets (KLM’s three Boeing 747-400 production freighters, Martinair’s one 747-400 converted freighter and Air France’s two 777-200s). It also has an order with Airbus for eight A350 freighters, which won’t be available until at least the second half of 2026, for replacement of older aircraft and growth.

Air France KLM previously floated the idea of operating two of the CMA CGM’s future aircraft. How the relationship evolves bears watching, including whether CMA CGM defers control of more assets to Air France KLM because of its longer airfreight experience.

The alliance aims to provide more efficiency and effective service by extending opportunities for customers to connect shipments across the globe. The combined offerings will give customers greater choice in destinations, improved transit times and flexibility by utilizing the freighter and passenger belly space of all four airlines, the companies said. A specialized customer service desk will address specific challenges, including movement of large shipments. 

Since March 20, CMA CGM flights have been available for booking on the AFKLM Martinair Cargo online platform MyCargo.

CMA CGM’s US service

CMA CGM Air Cargo resumed service out of Chicago O’Hare and introduced flights out of Miami, to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, the company confirmed in early March. The new carrier abruptly stopped flying Airbus A330 cargo jets for its own customers in late fall so it could rent them out to other carriers that needed more airlift. 

The company says the temporary change in tactics was related to repatriating its fleet from partner Air Belgium and placing them on its own air operating certificate in France. The repatriation, however, didn’t apply to the carrier’s Boeing 777 freighters, which were never flown by Air Belgium.

CMA CGM said it is flying to the U.S. destinations three times per week. The A330s are making the following circuit, according to Flightradar24: Chicago-Paris-Miami-Paris-Almaty, Kazakhstan-Shanghai and then in reverse order going back.

“Those regular services resumed in January and will remain key destinations of our network. Due to its central place in the global economy, the United States is paramount for CMA CGM Air Cargo’s development: strengthening our business presence in the country is one of our priorities,” the carrier said in a statement to FreightWaves.

Click here for more FreightWaves stories by Eric Kulisch.


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