Horses, rhinos come to air cargo's aid in recession

Wed Sep 26, 2012 10:34am EDT
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By Maria Sheahan and Victoria Bryan

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Milano de Flore, waiting dozily at Frankfurt airport for a flight to Buenos Aires after competing in the London Olympics, had no idea how important he is to the air freight business.

That is because he is a horse - one of the many millions of live animals whose transport by air has helped operators cushion the ups and downs of the air cargo sector in the past few years with lucrative specialty freight business.

"It's stayed relatively constant throughout the crisis. There's hardly any volatility like with usual freight. People just love animals," Axel Heitmann, head of Lufthansa Cargo's Animal Lounge in Frankfurt, told Reuters.

And like other kinds of speciality freight - such as pharmaceuticals that have to stay cold, perishables like flowers or valuables like gold - animal cargo is more profitable than general freight.

Larger animals in particular - such as dolphins bound for a water park in Dubai, giant pandas on their way to a new home in Paris or thoroughbred race horses - offer carriers hefty margins.

Lufthansa Cargo, the freight arm of Germany's leading airline Deutsche Lufthansa transports around 100 million live animals per year, almost as many as the number of passengers served by parent Lufthansa.

That number does however include 3,000 tonnes of worms to be used as fishing bait and a lot of tropical fish, Heitmann said.


A Polo stallion is fed with hay as it waits for the transfer to South Africa at the animal lounge of German air carrier Lufthansa at the Fraport airport in Frankfurt, September 26, 2012. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach