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New era begins for MK Airlines
All-cargo carrier MK Airlines has entered a new era with the opening last week of its main hub in Ostend, acceptance as a UK carrier and the completion of a key accident investigation.

MD Mike Kruger told IFW the transfer of the carrier's seven B747 freighters to the UK register would open important markets in the northern hemisphere and strengthen its presence there.

"It will give us access to the US and Mexico and open up markets like Hong Kong and Japan. We are definitely going to add China and North America."

MK had been in those markets, but traffic rights to these destinations had been difficult to obtain as an airline with an air operator certificate (AOC) from Ghana, even on a charter basis, he said.

But as the freighters transfer to the UK register over the next 12 months, the carrier could take advantage of UK and EU air services agreements, as well as open-skies markets such as Dubai.

One B747 is already on the UK register, with the other six to be added at a rate of one every two months.

MK will continue to operate on the basis of regular charters, mainly for a limited number of regular customers, but when it made sense to do so, could make use of traffic rights for scheduled services, Kruger said.

Although its UK status made it possible for MK to compete in these northern markets, 50% of business would continue to come from Africa, he said, taking advantage of the carrier's considerable network, contacts and experience there.

Flights might, for example, also go direct from Africa to North America, instead of through Europe, he said. But MK would continue to use a "pentagon" structure, rather than simple two-way routes, in order to maximise aircraft use.

Kruger said status as a UK carrier, and its new ownership structure, also made accessing finance far easier, a vital factor in the airline's plans to expand its fleet and operations.

MK has just taken delivery of its seventh B747 freighter, acquired from Polar Air Cargo and GE and is looking at adding an eighth next year.

Kruger was evaluating the B747-400 special [converted] freighter for the medium term, but in the long term hoped to add B747-8s, "the freighter for the future", he said.

MK said the recent publication of the accident investigation report by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada had signalled it was time to move on from the tragic incident in 2004 in which seven MK crew died, although recommendations from the report had been taken on board.

Kruger said the fact that the UK had allowed MK onto the UK register proved its safety practices and policies could now not be questioned.

And, he added, neither could the airline's commitment to Ostend, following the completion of its 4,000 sq metre, t4m facility and the signing of a 30-year lease.

Posted: 11/09/2006

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