Encouraged by the German Government’s stated aim to promote passenger and cargo traffic at the Leipzig/Halle airport in Eastern Germany – this is contained in the text of the coalition agreement signed between Germany’s ruling coalition parties, the conservative Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union and the Social Democratic Party – the airport is trying to become Germany’s cargo hub. Leipzig/Halle is presently the country’s second biggest cargo airport, in terms of cargo tonnage, behind Frankfurt/Main airport.
German officials acknowledge privately that while Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government was generally keen to strengthen Germany as a cargo hub, it is also “very much interested” in strengthening “cargo points” in eastern Germany to promote cargo traffic in the region and beyond. Indeed, the government has already signaled this intention by working towards reducing the processing time for issue of permits for cargo charter flights.
The Leipzig/Halle airport is expected to get more landing rights for cargo carriers, thus evolving into a key cargo airport in Germany.
Leipzig/Halle, the home base of DHL Express, Aerologic (the joint venture between DHL and Lufthansa Cargo) and Ruslan Salis, has also been receiving the large cargo Antonov aircraft of the An-124 type, which call here for maintenance service provided by a company called Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Service.
Indeed, the airport has become the service and maintenance site in eastern Germany for the Antonov An-124 type. These giant-sized cargo aircraft are frequently sighted at the airport with sometimes as many as six aircraft of this type calling on a single day. The Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Service, the successor to the former German service provider, Volga-Dnepr Technics, has maintained a hangar at Leipzig/Halle since a few years now. Cargo airline Volga-Dneper is the biggest operator of the An-124 aircraft.
But Leipzig/Halle, a multimodal hub for cargo traffic between Asia and Europe, has its gaze on the lucrative markets of Asia. Having built itself as a key point in Germany’s air-cargo landscape, the airport is aggressively foraying into Asia, offering facilities to companies that are associated with air-cargo and logistics sectors. These include a 24-hour operating permit for cargo flights and a freight-handling railway station, which is connected to seaports via daily goods trains, and providing help to trucks to reach destinations in 15 different European countries in just eight hours.
On average, as many as 120 flights a week operate between Leipzig/Halle Airport and 20 destinations in the Asian region, including Shanghai-Pudong, Hong Kong, Zhengzhou as well as Bangkok, Tokyo Narita, New Delhi, Seoul Incheon, Singapore, Bahrain and Dubai. More than half the weekly flights to Asia operate to and from China.
Leipzig/Halle maintains cooperation arrangements with Shenzhen Airport Group, Shanghai Airport Authority and Henan Province Airport Group in China, as also Kansai International Airport in Japan. Leipzig/Halle Airport also signed a memorandum of understanding covering future cooperation with the Hubei Provincial Communications Investment Group, the largest public-sector company in the province of Hubei, and SF Express, a leading private express logistics specialist in China. The planned cooperation arrangement covers an exchange of experiences in planning, constructing and operating a cargo airport – as well as a strategic partnership in the fields of international air freight and logistics services and an exchange of personnel.
The Mitteldeutsche Airport Holding AG, which owns Leipzig/Halle airport – the airport operating company is called Flughafen Leipzig/Halle GmbH – is involved in the German-Sino trade association, which has been promoting trade and economic relations between Germany and China for more than 30 years. Leipzig/Halle, keen to increase its ties with China, has also been participating in the Transport Logistic China trade show held in Shanghai. Johannes Jahn, spokesman for the Board of the Mitteldeutschen Flughafen AG and managing director of Flughafen Leipzig/Halle GmbH, described the Transport-Logistic trade fair in Shanghai as an “ideal platform” to present the airport’s services as a “modern, multimodal airport at the heart of Europe in this important growth market”.
“We are also exhibiting our strengths as a logistics specialist that is able to handle a wide variety of services and offer an attractive investment base to a broad specialist audience and potential customers,” Jahn said.
Leipzig/Halle has developed into an important handling center for express freight in Europe, posting strong growth in freight volume in this business segment, driven largely by the burgeoning e-commerce traffic.
Besides being DHL’s European hub, Leipzig/Halle Airport is also the home base for AeroLogic, the DHL Express-Lufthansa Cargo joint venture.
The volumes handled by DHL are the primary driver of growth at the airport. The company operates its largest hub in its global network at Leipzig/Halle, pouring investments of EUR 655 million so far in construction work there.
The freight charter business of other logistics providers has also developed far beyond average levels. The route network for freight traffic overall includes more than 200 airports around the globe and over 60 cargo airlines fly to them.
“The significant growth in freight volumes underlines the potential at Leipzig/Halle Airport, which offers ideal conditions for air traffic and logistics companies as a multimodal base at the heart of Europe,” says Jahn.
An airport spokesperson draws attention to PortGround, an airport affiliated company serving as one- stop source for the entire supply chain, including a refrigerated warehouse at the World Cargo Center; this facility can accommodate complete aircraft loads in three different refrigerated zones. The airport is, meanwhile, trying to obtain the IATA “CEIV” certification for the complete supply chain for transporting high-value pharmaceutical products.
Leipzig/Halle Airport is Europe’s fifth-largest air-cargo hub, handling roughly 1.14 million tonnes of freight in 2017, up 8.2 percent over the previous year. More than 60 cargo airlines regularly use the airport every year and fly to over 200 destinations around the globe. Leipzig/Halle Airport handled about 298,532 tonnes of air freight from January to March 2018. This represents a 12.3 percent growth over the year-earlier period. The airport set a new monthly record in March 2018 when it handled about 107,428 tonnes.
Airport officials point out that the airport is actively developing feeder services, which are of existential importance. The airport has a 24-hour operating permit for cargo flights as well as direct links to the trans-European motorway and railway networks in north-south and east-west directions. The airport’s runway system comprises two parallel runways, each 3,600 metres long, and they can be used independently of each other.
Leipzig/Halle is keen to develop what its officials describe as “unique services” in an attempt to tap niche markets. One area of specialization is the transport of large and heavy animals. The airport recently transported a herd of 165 cattle bound for the Gulf region on board a B747-400 aircraft. The animals, transported from five trucks to the transport boxes at the airport’s Animal Export Center, came from the East German states of Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Two companies – FARHAT GmbH and PortGround – handled the transfer.
The airport’s 1,300 square meter large Animal Export Center is fitted with a large delivery zone, with veterinary personnel and customs officers working round-the-clock.