Polar Air plans global freighter link with HK
Polar Air Cargo, the aircraft chartering arm of Atlas Worldwide Holdings, from October plans to link Hong Kong into a new round-the-world freighter service that will include the United States, Europe and India.
The New York-based pure freight operator is to fly from India to Hong Kong via Penang pending approval from the US Department of Transport (DOT) and in line with the second-year expansion of the US-Hong Kong air services agreement.
US cargo carriers in November were awarded 56 additional weekly temporary fifth-freedom rights over two years through Hong Kong, 24 of which were implemented in the first year.
Polar's share of the remaining 32 rights, which allow carriers to pick up cargo in Hong Kong to onward destinations, will see the carrier link Hong Kong with Penang and India.
'We are hopeful that our case to the DOT will show we are efficiently utilising the services we were granted in year one of the US-Hong Kong air services agreement,' said Kersti Krepp, Polar's vice-president (Asia-Pacific).
'That should in turn help our bid for the year-two route expansions.'
The carrier now serves India from the US, after transiting Europe. In June it will extend that service to Penang setting the stage for the October link up with Hong Kong.
The flight will continue to Seoul, Polar's Asia hub, where cargo can meet connections to the US east and west coasts, completing the global loop.
It already flies Penang-Seoul direct. In June it will add a sixth weekly frequency from Tokyo to Chicago and New York.
Federal Express, with other US cargo carriers including Polar Air, United Parcel Service and Northwest Airlines, had proposed to the DOT that finalisation of an interim split of first-year rights be concluded among themselves.
In a response to the carriers on February 28, the DOT agreed to their proposal subject to the allocation's submission for final approval.
However, while formal hearings would not be held, a DOT spokesman in Washington said written submissions would still be required. 'We are continuing with our process on awarding the immediate and October 2003 rights. We are not holding hearings but are using non-oral, show-cause written procedures,' the DOT spokesman said.
So far, no carriers, either big or small, have complained to the DOT about the format to finalise the route allocations.
Ms Krepp said the carriers hoped the process could be repeated for the second tranche.
If they could not reach agreement the DOT would settle the dispute, she said.
'Given all the due processes, we expect the award of the year-two frequencies will come in the summer,' she said. 'If we can track through Hong Kong to Penang, India and then to Europe it brings up some pretty exciting possibilities.
'There are more and more hi-tech products moving into India, but overall it remains a net export market.
'We are going through some pretty sophisticated planning exercises right now to see what the [space] allocations will be for the overall network.'
Polar has made some significant inroads into the Asian market in the past two years. In February 2001, it had seven weekly frequencies to the US from Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo.
Since then it has added Jakarta, Manila, Penang and Taipei, and now flies Asian cargo to voracious US consumers 20 times a week.