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Korean Airlines - Ambitious for Cargo


clock03-29-2010, 12:03 AM
Yorum: #1
KAL's Ambitions

BY IAN PUTZGER

4 November 2004

Air Cargo World



Korean Air caused something of a stir this summer with orders that suggested a truly gargantuan appetite for cargo planes. Having just taken delivery of its fourth 747-400 extended-range freighter, with one more to come in August, the carrier signed an order for two more in mid-June. Barely two weeks later, KAL announced that it was signing up with Boeing for as many as 20 conversion kits for 747-400s.



As it turned out, the airline's expansion drive isn't quite that hefty. About half of the conversion kits are not for its own needs; they will be for other carriers signing up for conversions at KAL's aviation center in Pusan.



KAL Cargo will "only" bring in eight to 10 converted 747-400 freighters between 2006 and 2010 - still a blistering pace by anybody's standards.



In the first nine months of the year, KAL's cargo traffic on international routes has climbed 20 percent, driven by 40 percent growth in cargo to and from China. Its exports from South Korea have gone up 20 percent.



The year's numbers, and the prospects of the capacity that will be brought in, show Korean Air at the heart of a trading boom that is evident in Asia's skies. With KAL's orders for new aircraft, and last month's announcement by Japan Airlines of a significant purchase of freighters for Tokyo, Asia's carriers are vying for the control of Asian cargo in the future and using the current prosperity to set a foundation for dominance on new air trade lanes.



Exporting Korea



South Korea's export industry has been firing on all cylinders. In the first quarter, the country's technology-related exports, which make up the bulk of air cargo traffic, were up 47 percent, according to the Ministry of Information.



The Ministry of Construction and Transportation reported in the summer that IT exports were the driving force behind a 25 percent increase in air cargo shipments in the second quarter.



Imports haven't quite matched this pace; KAL's inbound volume in September was up about 15 percent from last year. However, imports are dominated by capital goods for manufacturing rather than consumer items, noted Ken Choi, president of KAL Cargo.



Like the other Asian tigers, South Korea has seen a migration of manufacturing across the border to China. Many companies have set up production facilities not far from the Korean border.



In Qingdao, China, there are over 500 factories run by Korean firms, Choi notes. In addition to feeding KAL flights to and from China, this has also boosted the carrier's volume out of Seoul to North America and Europe, thanks to a steady stream of sea-air traffic that moves from Northern China to Incheon International Airport by ship.



The Korean government has been pushing to establish the country as a logistics hub for the region. A year ago, the Ministry of Information announced plans to invest $43 million in a logistics center at Incheon, and it passed legislation that allows manufacturers to set up shop in four free trade zones, including Incheon.



Looking at those market conditions, Polar Air Cargo, FedEx, UPS and DHL all have stepped up their activities at Incheon in the past year. That has emboldened the airport authority, which imposed a 17 percent hike in landing fees at Incheon over the next three years, starting with a 5 percent hike this year. KAL and others are trying to stop the fee hike.



Slowing Down



The timing of Incheon's fee hike seems all the more awkward as there are indications of a slowdown in the market.



Choi reported signs that export growth is slowing down, due to rising inventory levels of LCDs and semiconductors in Western markets. In any case, he doesn't expect the recent momentum to carry through 2005. "I think this year all cargo carriers have enjoyed tremendous traffic. This year was too good. I don't expect 2005 to be as strong as 04," he reflected.



This is not going to derail KAL's fleet expansion, however. Two 747-400ER freighters are due next year, and from 2006 through 2010, Choi is looking to add two converted 747-400 freighters per year to his fleet.



But the carrier also is going to get rid of its MD-11 freighters to turn its freighter line-up into an all-747 fleet. The MD-11 has about 70 percent of the capability of the 747-400 but its maintenance costs are almost level with the larger plane, thanks to the economies of scale KAL has on the 747 front, he said.



By his reckoning, most Asian markets are big enough for 747 freighters. Where there is not enough demand - such as Vietnam, which is currently served with three weekly 747F flights - KAL can add other stops on the route, he said.



On the occasion of the airline's 35th anniversary in March, KAL's chairman expressed his desire to see the airline become the world's top air freight carrier. Choi said the "No. 1" would be earned through efforts to improve service rather than as a goal to be pursued in its own right through aggressive expansion.



On that front, KAL is launching a Web-based customer support system "designed to enable customers to perform any tasks occurring between airlines and forwarders in all stages of cargo transportation on a single platform." On top of booking and tracking functionality, it will give plane and truck schedules, pickup and delivery times, allow access to information at house and master air waybill level, allow electronic billing and payment information, and display flown as booked records for performance monitoring.



This will be KAL's focus on the e-commerce front for the foreseeable future. Choi said third-party booking portals such as GF-X still must develop more traction among airlines and forwarders. At the moment, it is still too early for KAL to join, he said. KAL's own platform is set to go live in Korea this month, followed by the rest of the world on December 1.



... Briefly



The Export-Import Banks of the United States and South Korea signed a joint financing framework under which the U.S. Ex-Im Bank can provide loan guarantees for up to 85 percent of the cost of Boeing cargo aircraft purchased by South Korean airlines and the Korean Ex-Im Bank can provide counter guarantees for a portion of the amount. ... Chile's LAN Cargo airline named Paramount Hong Kong Express as its general sales agent for Hong Kong. ... U-Freight opened an office at Tokyo Narita International Airport, part of what the Hong Kong-based forwarder said was a planned expansion in Japan. ... Indian Airlines will lease nine widebody aircraft starting November 2005, replacing three A300s, the only widebodies in the carrier's fleet. ... P.T. Internusa Hasta Buana, the Indonesian arm of the Asian-based freight services group, Famous Pacific Shipping, opened a second office in Jakarta because of what it said was growth in air freight forwarding. ... Hong Kong-based Kerry Properties will buy a majority stake in Chinese forwarder EAS International. ... DHL Danzas Air & Ocean won a contract with W Hotels Worldwide to supply the chain's new property in Seoul.
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