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The bigger, the better

Volga-Dnepr Airlines is a key player in the transportation of outsize cargo and by utilising a unique concept, nothing is too big to be moved, as Stan Abbott finds out

With a fleet that includes some of the world’s largest freight-carrying aircraft, Volga-Dnepr Airlines specialises not only in carrying oversize cargos, but through its ‘cargo supermarket’ service, responds to extremely complex transportation challenges in industries from oil and gas to aerospace.


The figures speak for themselves: the airline’s 12 Antonov-124-100 Ruslan super freighters and five Ilyushin-76s carry more than 60,000 tonnes of cargo to more than 80 countries annually, clicking up more than 350 million tonne-kilometres.


The airline’s name, drawn from the rivers Volga and Dnepr, reflects both its scale and ambition. The former is Russia’s ‘national river’ and Europe’s largest and longest, while the latter rises in Russia but is considered Ukraine’s ‘holy river’.


Now the airline has taken important steps to cement its reputation as the world leader in the carriage of outsize cargos by creating its cargo supermarket to bring together the key functions of transportation, logistics and the design and provision of engineering solutions to complex logistics questions.


At the heart of this concept has been the creation in the past 12 months of a series of hubs across the world at London Stansted, Leipzig, Houston, Hanoi and Sharjah.


This has brought with it a number of benefits for both airline and customers. Firstly, as the hubs have been chosen to reflect customer demand, it reduces both the time required and the cost of positioning an aircraft for a specific charter.


Additionally, each hub is supported by loading equipment and a 24/7 team, covering everything from logistics sales and customer support, to loadplanning, loadmasters, operations, navigators, and ground handling.


For the airline, it also provides a shop window for its services, as Tony Bauckham, Commercial Director, Charter Business, at Volga-Dnepr Group, explains: “The bases naturally support Volga-Dnepr’s goal of attracting new customers, as they give us the opportunity to present our AN-124-100 and IL-76TD- 90VD freighters to customers in each region – as well as to organise site visits, aircraft guided tours and demonstrations of our fleet capabilities and loading procedures so as to increase customer understanding.”


“So far, we have received extremely positive feedback from our customers around the world about the benefits of our operational bases.”


The cargo supermarket concept, says Bauckham, differentiates Volga-Dnepr by offering customers the widest possible choice of transportation and logistics solutions for all types of cargo – including the most outsize, heavyweight and complex shipments to the most remote regions of the world.


“The whole spectrum of aircraft types, coupled with 28 years of experience and our global team of highly skilled logistics specialists, gives Volga- Dnepr the opportunity to offer the broadest range of logistics solutions in the most cost efficient manner,” says Bauckham.


Chief among these is not just access to the AN- 124-100, and IL-76TD-90VD, but also Boeing 747 and 737 freighters operated by another group company, AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC).


“No other company in the world is able to offer a range of available aircraft of this scale,” says Bauckham. The supermarket concept also covers a range of other services, including direct air charter, sub charters from partner airlines for types including the AN-12, AN-26, and AN-72, as well as scheduled air cargo services and road feeder services. Customers can also access support services, including managed warehousing, turnkey projects, crane equipment lease, road permits and customs brokerage.


“This offering enables us to provide solutions for customers that range from moving smartphones to entire satellite communications systems, vaccines to field hospitals, valves to gas processing plants, cabling to power substations, car parts to fleets of vehicles, shipments of fresh fish to entire boats and much, much more.” >>


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