Jettainer introduces composite ULDs
Jettainer, a company that provides outsourced management of unit load devices for airlines, has begun using composite containers with the goal of reducing fuel consumption and operational costs.
The joint venture between Lufthansa Cargo and information technology specialist TrenStar recently switched half of the ULD fleet at Condor Airlines to the new box type. Condor is a German passenger carrier specializing in leisure destinations. Over the course of the renewed five-year contract Jettainer will transition the rest of Condor's equipment to the plastic variety.
Composite ULDs for baggage and freight are about 15 percent lighter than the traditional boxes made out of aluminum, according to Jettainer Managing Director Alexander Pl'macher.
Composites have been in use for several years at airlines such as Air Canada and the former Northwest Airlines, but it is the first time Jettainer has adopted them. The boxes consist of an aluminum floor and frame, with composite side panels.
The plastic units from four manufacturers ' Aerobox, Driessen, Dokasch GmbH and two brands of Nordisc ' underwent extensive testing before Jettainer felt confident enough to invest in the new storage devices, Pl'macher said during a private session with reporters at the Cargo Network Services conferences in Miami and in a follow-up interview.
The company engaged a German laboratory to stress test the composite containers around-the-clock for six months in an effort to simulate their life span. The containers were tested for their ability to withstand ultraviolet radiation, saltwater, temperature fluctuations, and other conditions, he said.
Some makes, for instance, tended to break down under exposure to ultraviolet light.
Jettainer subsequently bought 1,000 units and shipped them 120,000 times through Lufthansa's cargo network last year to evaluate them in an operational setting.
In addition to reduced fuel consumption, other benefits of composite ULDs are reduced carbon dioxide emissions and the ability of airlines to increase their payload, Pl'macher said. They are also recyclable and not as easy for someone to cut themselves on.
German manufacturer Dokasch said a typical mid-size cargo fleet will load about 5,000 ULDs over the course of a year, which could result in savings of up to 1.5 million gallons of fuel, yielding a 28,000-ton reduction in carbon emissions and potential cash savings of about $3 million per year. It said the stronger plastics hold up better and require less maintenance, enabling an airline to reduce annual repair costs up to half.
Composites containers are more expensive than aluminum ones and Pl'macher said he must still determine whether they have the long-term durability to justify a more extensive investment. The six-year-old company eventually will use a mix of products from various suppliers.
Jettainer, which has a fleet of 80,000 ULDs, plans to next approach two other customers, Lufthansa Cargo and the cargo division of Swiss International Airlines, about rolling over some of their fleets to composites, Pl'macher said.
Swiss is also owned by Lufthansa Airlines. Ten airlines, plus Lufthansa Cargo Charter, use Jettainer.
Only about 10 percent to 15 percent of ULDs are outsourced, but Jettainer officials conservatively estimate that customers can save 15 percent per unit by transferring their management to a third party and spreading the purchasing, logistics and maintenance costs across a wider base. The use of composites could increase the estimated savings.
The company's business model involves buying a new customer's ULDs, based on their book value, and pooling them together for use by any airline. Some airlines still retain ownership of their ULDs and hire Jettainer to manage their inventory.
Jettainer studies customer demand patterns and uses sophisticated planning and tracking tools to make sure they have the right number and type of ULDs on hand at each airport to meet specific needs. Airlines pay a per-use fee that is set by contract.
The wider pool of assets helps smooth out imbalances that often can occur in an airline's network and reduces repositioning costs.
How not to win a raffle
A gentleman was announced as the first luncheon winner of two free tickets with a major airline during the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's ninth annual aviation summit on April 28.
But under the informal rules, you had to be present to claim your prize. He apparently, had left. Or maybe he went to the men's room.
But then master of ceremonies Carol Hallett, a former executive officer of the Air Transport Association and current counselor to the Chamber, discovered the executive had placed two business cards in the bowl and disqualified him.
'I don't think he deserves it. He put two cards in here,' she said with mock indignation.
It's one thing to lose a big prize, but another to be called out for trying to game the system.
No one took offense. It was all good natured ribbing.
Heck, I'd probably drop three cards in if I thought it would help.
Helane Becker, an aviation and air freight analyst at Jesup & Lamont Securities, took a dig at American Airlines during the Cargo Network Services conference in Miami on May 3 and then couldn't stop.
During a discussion of the United-Continental merger and airline consolidation, Becker said American has a poor history of reaping the benefits of previous acquisitions. Fair enough.
With AA Cargo officials in the audience, Becker then had a Joe Biden moment, saying: 'It's a good thing I don't fly them that much.'
For the next several minutes she continued to trash American and make jokes about the company.
Public speakers often stick their foot in their mouth. The trick is to realize your mistake and move on, not keep digging a bigger hole.