An article from Lutz Feierabend and Corinna Schulz. Published in Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. Translated by WDL.
Mr. Simon-Schröter, your company, the logistics service provider Zeitfracht, took over the Cologne charter flight provider WDL a good year ago. Why did the purchase make sense and where do you want to develop the company?
Our founders and the founders of WDL have worked together before. And we have decided that air freight should become part of the company again. We believe that terrestrial transport has arrived at the end. The reason is the difficult traffic situation. There are simply too many construction sites, and freight can often no longer be transported within the desired time frame. That’s why we go up in the air.
How many machines does WDL currently have at Cologne/Bonn Airport?
We have three passenger planes in service that have flown long distances for Easyjet – which is a special distinction – and which are now in service for British Airways and Air France, among others. In addition, there are three freight planes that fly for large logistics service providers or can be hired by customers who want to transport something directly through brokers.
Do you want to increase the fleet further?
Yes, we have just signed the purchase contract for four Embraer E190 machines. In the long term, WDL aims to become a leading provider of wet-lease services for all leading airlines.
For this, we intend to make further investments at our Cologne location, not least because it is of particular importance to us due to its central location in Germany and the fact that it is open at night. And we create jobs. With the new machines, the number of employees at the Cologne location will grow from the current 129 to over 200.
The new airport boss Johan Vanneste has announced that he wants to increase profits. In the course of this there will also be an increase in charges. What does this mean for your company?
If the fees are increased, we cannot pass on the price increase to our customers with whom we have fixed contracts. Currently, however, it is still unclear to us exactly what the airport concept will look like and where the focus will be: freight traffic or passengers. If the owners of the airport have cleared that up, we should talk.
So you could imagine going to another airport?
For us, this would be the biggest accident to be expected if we had to look for a new airport, either because the charges are too high or because we no longer have the infrastructure we need.
What do you mean specifically?
I am talking about the hall in which our machines have been serviced by our employees for decades. If this is no longer the case, the reliability of the aircraft may suffer. A special quality of WDL is that the machines fly longer and more reliably than many others due to the very careful maintenance by own personnel. We cannot and will not deviate from this company policy, which, incidentally, also represents a safety aspect.
Which airport would be an alternative?
We have not yet held any talks, but we assume that there will still be free capacity in Düsseldorf following the insolvency of Air Berlin. We simply need reliability for the next few years and reliability we don’t have in Cologne/Bonn at the moment.
Zeitfracht is a fairly diversified logistics group, which you have further expanded through numerous acquisitions. The company operates freight forwarding, transport and logistics, real estate, crafts, technology and planning as well as aviation and shipping. How is this complex medium-sized conglomerate networked?
Transport by road, air and on special ships, for example for spare parts for wind turbines at sea, form a service chain. We can supply everything – via all transport routes – for the customer from a single source. However, this is the supreme discipline. Basically, however, first of all every company runs its business properly. The second step is to connect the different areas with each other.
How does your involvement in Romania with the low-cost passenger company Blue Air fit into your overall strategy, especially since competition among low-cost airlines is extremely fierce?
We see a new business segment there. With 27 aircraft, Blue Air is also not a pure low-cost airline, but an upmarket quality low-cost airline. We will reduce the route network and eliminate unprofitable routes. The focus is on Eastern Europe with a base in Romania. For the summer flight schedule, the airline will also be more frequently deployed at southern German airports for a large holiday operator. We are not going into the German market, which is already very well occupied. We are always looking for the niche. We are only interested in what the others, and above all the big players in the industry, do not do.
About Dr. Wolfram Simon-Schröter
Wolfram Simon (38) is Managing Director of the Zeitfracht Group. The graduate in business administration joined the company in 2009. Since 2015 he has headed the company together with his wife Jasmin Schröter, grandniece of the company founder Horst Walter Schröter. Zeitfracht is a group of companies consisting of 25 individual companies in the fields of freight forwarding, transport and logistics (in particular road and air freight), real estate, trade, technology and planning as well as air transport and shipping. Zeitfracht is one of the founding members of the DPD parcel service, whose shares were sold in 2016. The group generates an annual turnover of more than 300 million euros at its 11 locations throughout Germany with headquarters in Berlin and around 3000 employees. (ksta)