Global insight

Christmas woes at Cargolux

Christmas woes at Cargolux

GLOBAL freight airline Cargolux’s 2018 recruitment drive is to get under way with a search for a new sales chief, aircargoeye.com reveals.

Niek van der Weide (below, right), who assumed the position of executive vice-president of sales and marketing following Robert van de Weg’s departure in November 2014, is to retire in February, it is understood.

Christmas woes at Cargolux

Niek van der Weide, who assumed the position of executive vice-president of sales and marketing at Cargolux in November 2014

The all-cargo carrier is already in the midst of a plan to replenish a number of key personnel – at a time when service reliability is under substantial pressure, writes Thelma Etim.

Ongoing personnel shortages contributed to a number of costly and damaging flight delays – some up to 48 hours – during the busy Christmas period, angering customers, aircargoeye.com sources reveal. It is also understood that flights operated under an agreed ACMI contract for Emirates SkyCargo were also seriously affected over the period.

This illustrates why the recruitment drive is now critical. In addition to a long-standing employment advertisement posted on the company’s website seeking first officers, Cargolux has also launched a series of pilot recruitment roadshows.

In an internal memo to staff, chief executive Richard Forson notes that the results from these recent roadshows have been above expectations. “The positive feedback and the number of candidates applying for pilot jobs at Cargolux have confirmed that the package offered by Cargolux is attractive and competitive,” he insists.

But Dirk Becker, executive secretary of the Association Luxembourgeoise des Pilotes de Ligne (ALPL), which represents the pilots working at the airline, disagrees. “The current employment conditions for new staff are no longer competitive,” he argues.

“The problems arising from continuously high workloads and fatiguing work schedules are deterring prospective candidates normally interested in applying.

“Roadshows to attract new pilots are just evidence of this fact. In the company’s nearly 50 years, such recruiting tools to attract pilots to join Cargolux have now become necessary for the first time.”

Aircargoeye.com learns that Cargolux is expanding its recruitment strategy to hire 60 more pilots with similar events in Amsterdam, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Brussels, Milan and Rome in the New Year.

The company also plans to take on 41 additional ground staff and implement a minimum of 22 internal promotions from senior first officer to captain.

Cargolux chief executive Richard Forson accuses the union LCGB of using “scaremongering tactics”

All in all, the cargo carrier is ending 2017 on a high note, with profits expected to exceed US$100m – allowing it to hand out €2,500 bonuses to all its staff, as part of a preliminary profits share deal previously outlined in the Collective Workers Agreement (CWA) 2015-2018. Staff members are due to receive another round of bonuses in May.

Despite the financial successes, relationships between the flight-deck staff and the management remain volatile. Last month Forson accused the union LCGB of using “scaremongering tactics” in its communications whilst “deliberately attempting to portray the outstanding achievements of the airline in 2017 in a negative light.”

His stern comments came after the union revealed in a press conference on November 28th that staff numbers were still not at a satisfactory level, despite the company’s announcements to significantly increase staffing levels. “With the staff working to the maximum extent of what is legally possible, this has resulted in an all-time high work-load and fatigue levels amongst ground staff and pilots alike,” ALPL executive secretary Dirk Becker explained to aircargoeye.com after the press conference.

“For far too long, Cargolux has considered legal limits as planning limits. This applies equally to the flight and duty times of pilots as to the work hours and shift planning for ground staff. Unfortunately, not everything that is legally permissible is also safe – a fact which is well-known in the aviation industry. Assuming everything is safe, just because the letters of a regulations are followed, is just short-sighted,” he suggests.

But Forson refutes such claims in his memo. “Safety is our first priority as an airline and will not be compromised. We operate within all applicable legal and regulatory parameters and the ‘Accountable Manager’ and ‘Nominated Persons’ are continuously working to maintain the safe operations of this company.”

All safety recommendations are being managed based on the existing approved Cargolux Management System Manual, which is in accordance with ICAO guidelines,” Forson adds.

“European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) flight crew duty time limitations were introduced at the beginning of last year. They were specifically designed to prevent fatigue by, amongst other things, considering body clock and increasing rest periods for flights crossing multiple time zones.

“Cargolux ensured its commitment to the highest safety standards when it adopted a Fatigue Risk Management (FRMS) scheduling system based on ICAO best practices, which goes beyond the minimum EASA Flight Time Limitations (FTL) requirements on fatigue risk management,” Forson concludes.

Aircargoeye.com has contacted the Cargolux press office for a response to this story and is awaiting a reply.

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