«In the right place at the right time»
After graduating in engineering from the aviation and aerospace university in Samara, Sergey Lazarev entered the aviation industry in 1994. Following various roles at Orenburg Airlines, in 2013 he switched to Airbridge Cargo Airlines (ABC), the scheduled freight arm of the Volga-Dnepr group, whose business growth he has overseen since 2015.
Mr Lazarev, I’m delighted to speak with you, in particular as there have been some departures at ABC and the Volga-Dnepr group that seem surprising to outsiders.
Indeed, but Wolfgang Meier, Denis Ilin and Robert van de Weg, whom you are probably referring to, made their change of their own accord, and ABC is grateful for the services they provided, which will continue to have an impact on day-to-day business for a long time to come. As we are convinced of the significance of an own management team with fresh ideas in business, ABC also makes a contribution as an active member of the Volga-Dnepr Corporate University programme, during the course of which ambitious junior managers interact with experienced managers. We expect to gain new prospects from this.
How is the ABC network developing?
The expansion of the fleet and destinations has always been a strategic way to grow for ABC. Within the framework of a strategic partnership between Boeing and Volga-Dnepr, ABC has expanded its fleet to 18 B747 units with an option for more if the co-operation turns out to be successful. After the initial delivery of five state-of-the-art B747-8Fs to ABC, where they are gradually replacing the B747-400ERFs and B747-400Fs, the Volga-Dnepr group ordered 20 more. In September we added the 11th to our fleet.
When will they also fly to the southern hemisphere?
Our network expansion is planned depending on market demand and flight rights. In the medium term, Latin America is interesting because an increasing number of companies is considering relocating their production locations from Asia to their home markets. Under this aspect, Brazil and Mexico offer particular potential.
What role is played by the new terminal at Moscow-Sheremetyevo airport (see ITJ 37-38/2017, page 11)?
As our import, export, transfer and transit hub, SVO is particularly key for ABC. That’s why we welcome the long-term partnership that Volga-Dnepr and the airport operators concluded in 2016. The airport focuses on improving its infrastructure and is thereby also expanding the handling range for special freight such as pharma, perishable goods, live animals, etc.
Buzzword «pharma»: what is ABC’s offering here?
As this business area is a particular focus of our company, we are delighted about the increases in volumes observed in the first six months of 2017. Our ABC Pharma product offers demanding customers active and passive solutions for the transport of temperature-sensitive shipments or fine-technology devices. In addition, with our global pharma hub SVO, we are the first ever airline in Russia and only the seventh in the world to be certified in accordance with Iata CEIV. What’s more, we make contributions to industry initiatives such as the Pharma.Aero platform as well as the Pharma Gateway Amsterdam.
ABC only joined the latter in June. However, now your airline is directly affected by restrictions to flight movements to AMS planned for the winter flight schedule...
We’ve lost some slots there, but we immediately found a solution for our customers and switched to Liège, which is one of the most freight-friendly airports throughout Europe for us. The gradual increase in our frequency to twelve flights per week will open up new options for our customers. We’re confident about our future at LGG.
Does that also apply for the volumes in general?
Indeed it does. Thanks to the implementation of our product strategy, network expansions in the Asia-Pacific region and in Europe as well as the fleet expansion, we increased from January to September 2017 by a total of 15%. The key routes of Asia-Europe and vice versa the growth figures were +13% or +21% respectively. The volume from Asia to Europe saw double-digit growth, and demand from Europe to Singapore rose rapidly. I must praise the work of our international teams.
And what about your domestic market of Russia?
It’s very good. So far, we have transported more than 70,000 t in freight to and from Russia this year, up 12% on the previous year. The Russian economy is growing more strongly than expected at the start of the year, and we will soon better serve the booming e-commerce at SVO.
Mr Lazarev, what is the secret to ABC’s success?
The demand of shippers changes and differs depending on the sector. It’s important to fulfil them in the right place at the right time – and to anticipate customer requests before they have even thought of them themselves.