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AFKL DeliveringPARIS: Air France KLM Martinair Cargo has opened an aircraft-to-aircraft express hub at Paris CDG to focus on premium shipments by leveraging its considerable airline network.

The new €22 million transit terminal has been part-funded by GeoPost and the airline group's express parcel subsidiary Sodexi in order to provide services to Integrators and couriers; leverage the growing logistics opportunity of BtC e-commerce; benefit from increasing postal parcel volumes; and add operational value to forwarders.

Key to the new hub's success is its location. Unlike an existing facility that requires a 40-minute van/truck trek to and from airline passenger terminals, the new building is less than 10 minutes away.

The result now means viable access to 450 flights a day at CDG operating in five waves from 0600 to 2300. According to Bram Graeber, the airline group's interim executive vice president cargo, 6,000 parcels of up to 32 kgs. each can now be offloaded, sorted and reloaded between the waves of arriving and departing aircraft.

The opening of the new terminal last month coincided with a continuing decline in April cargo traffic for the airline group – falling 14.9 percent (in revenue tonne-kilometers) compared to the same month last year, as full freighter capacity fell 30 percent and overall network capacity declined seven percent.

Graeber admitted the growing dominance of the Gulf carriers has changed the cargo business completely since he was last involved over a decade ago. He echoed the view of his predecessor Erik Varwijk that operating freighter aircraft is not a precursor to being in the cargo business. Rather, as the Integrators have demonstrated, he suggested it is all about using IT to effectively leverage a network. To do this, Accenture has supplied its Freight and Logistics Software solution (AFLS) with a joint booking module now in operation across the three airlines.

According to Accenture managing director Freight & Logistics Adriana Diener, AFLS enables an airline "to understand the network availability and assessing the operational requirements of a shipment at time of booking in terms of ability to deliver as promised while being able to provide value-added and cost effective options to its shippers".

So perhaps it's no surprise that Air France KLM Martinair Cargo publicity for the new express hub at CDG declares its top priority is "delivering our promise" for "freight made personal".

Asked when Schiphol, Amsterdam might have a similar aircraft-to-aircraft express transit facility, Graeber said while the ambition was there, he couldn't give a date because finding the space sufficiently close to the multi-arm passenger terminal was more of a challenge.

He also declined to put cost on Alitalia's withdrawal in 2017 from its partnership with Air France KLM that includes a deal to sell the Italian carrier's network belly capacity. "Two years is a lifetime in the cargo business," he declared. "Meanwhile we continue to provide the service to Alitalia."

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