FORWARDERS in Asia will benefit from the rapid current trend of carriers forming alliances among themselves, according to the New York's Air Cargo World.
Following All Nippon Airways' (ANA) alignment with Lufthansa, the Japanese carrier is about to embark on a second joint venture, this one across the Pacific with United Airlines.
Meanwhile Lufthansa has set up another Asian alliance with ANA. It will also link up with Cathay Pacific. First on flights out of Asia and later from Europe to Hong Kong.
The Cathay-Lufthansa cooperation will cover more than 140 weekly flights between Hong Kong and 13 European destinations.
In addition to the joint marketing of their combined capacity on the sectors in question, their partnership will include an alignment of IT systems, network planning and joint handling activities - initially at their respective hubs in Hong Kong and Frankfurt.
Unlike the ANA alliances, however, the Cathay-Lufthansa agreement does not have antitrust immunity at this stage. Cathay cargo chief Simon Large said avoiding antitrust problems has been the biggest yet.
Some observers see these alliances as part the rise of Middle Eastern carriers, which have growing capacity between Asia and Europe.
By running freighters from Asia to their hubs and transferring cargo to passenger widebodies headed to Europe, they undercut Asian and European carriers operating freighters all the way.
Lufthansa Cargo CEO Peter Gerber has signalled that freighters are included in the joint approach with Cathay. However, Mr Large stresses that this does not herald a reduction of Cathay's freighter footprint in other European stations.
DHL Global Forwarding vice president Li Wenjun said he sees more pros than cons.
"If the alliances re-strategise their current routing flow, there should be opportunities for optimisation. With enhanced services being offered, there will be also more efficiency, flexibility and speed.
"Although we may see some adjustment with the rates in the market, this move should be welcoming to most forwarders due to the ability to offer more dynamic services in the industry," he said.
Said Dachser air/sea boss Thomas Reuter: "For us it is positive. The networks of our strategic partners are growing."
For one thing, the Lufthansa-Cathay axis opens the possibility for his company to use one air waybill to Australia for a transit through Hong Kong.
It remains to be seen how the alliances will affect available capacity, Mr Reuter added. There is a widespread expectation that more alliances will take shape in the near future.
Source : HKSG.