Cologne Airport marks successful year with dnata partnership

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Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN), a major airfreight hub in Germany and currently ranked as the eighth largest cargo airport in Europe, marked a very special year in 2022 with dnata stepping in as major general cargo handler.

Air Cargo Week (ACW): Talking about the airport as a whole, CGN recorded its highest increase in cargo volume for ten years in 2021. How has the airport continued to build on that success since then?

Andrea Tony Geslao (ATG), Head of Cargo Sales at CGN Airport: 2021 was a year full of records for us. We handled around 986.000 tons of pure airfreight in CGN. This is a plus of 14 per cent compared to 2020 and more than ever before. December only closed with a record value of nearly 94,000 tonnes.

Marcel-Sinan Altinkum (MSA), Cargo Business Development Manager at CGN Airport: Despite the political and economic instabilities, we were able to stabilise our traffic figures in 2022. Both our cargo movements and tonnage are at the same level as last year. This means that we will again handle almost 1 million tonnes. Having a look at the market as a whole and other airports around, we are very satisfied with this development.

ACW: How did the general cargo sector develop in Cologne?

Stef Vanbinst (SV), Managing Director at dnata Belgium & dnata Germany: dnata entered CGN in June this year as major first-line handler for general cargo shipments. Since then, the demand was very dynamic at our newest station. Whilst some carriers temporarily scaled down their presence, other long-term carriers such as Egyptair Cargo, Cargojet or MNG Airlines expanded their operations. Additionally, several airlines moved their cargo flights to CGN during the summer to ensure smooth handling of their cargo in a challenging environment.

Read more: Geslao new head of cargo sales at Cologne Bonn airport

ACW: What are dnata’s next plans in CGN?

Claus Nickel (CN), Operations Director at dnata Germany: First and foremost, we will bring the infrastructure and all processes to dnata’s usual quality level. We call this project “onednata”. As we acquired the former local handling provider, we need to adapt the whole organisation, so change management and building a new mind-set is key. Meanwhile, we are planning to scale our activities by attracting additional airline partners in CGN in close cooperation with our airport colleagues. For the long-term, we are currently in the design phase for a second warehouse in Cologne.

ACW: Back to the airport side, how can dnata contribute to your future growth?

MSA: Cargo handling is an integral part of the airfreight process chain and we are very glad to have a partner with an excellent global reputation. They are ramping up the handling quality which will be beneficial for all current and future customers.

ATG: Having a similar cargo community approach, we are constantly exchanging ideas how we can best facilitate all partners and stakeholders. Referring to the coming second warehouse on-site, we are very glad that dnata sees the same potential as we do and is willing to invest in it.

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ACW: What were the main reasons for dnata to come to Cologne?

SV: CGN has an unrestricted 24/7 operating license that becomes an increasing valuable asset in a time when European airports face more and more slot caps. Besides, the location was crucial for dnata. Cologne is situated in the centre of Europe’s largest airfreight market. 17 million inhabitants live within a radius of 100km. On the landside, our facility is well-linked to the German highway system whilst being in close proximity to the numerous freighter aprons airside. Lastly, CGN offered us the possibility for infrastructural development.

ACW: While Cologne Bonn Airport managed to reduce its losses significantly during the pandemic, it still reported a loss in 2021. How has that financial result impacted the airports ability to invest in future developments?

ATG: In spite of the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Cologne Bonn Airport completed the 2021 financial year better than expected and earned a much better annual result than in 2020. For 2022, we expect a very positive result again. Our cargo business is a major contributor to this outlook.

MSA: We never stopped investing in our extensive infrastructure. The airport has conducted a general renovation of its major runway and several taxiways. On top, we are constantly investing in the areas of innovation and sustainability, e.g. we have implemented a private 5G network. This enables our partners and us the usage of state-of-the-art technologies such as autonomous driving on the whole campus.

ACW: What will be your main focus in 2023?

CN: Supported by CGN’s cargo community, we will jointly work on attracting more cargo airlines and forwarders. After re-organisation of the warehouse and documentation office, we are able to offer dedicated first line-handling space for future customers.

SV: Besides, we will jointly plan our presence at major industry events. This includes the Air Cargo Europe in Munich which finally takes place again in May.