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
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,
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