Navigating runway works at LUX

Luxembourg airport, Cargolux’s historical home base, has launched an extensive renovation project on its single runway. The works, foreseen to take place over 2 years, have been meticulously planned by the airport authorities in collaboration with the airport stakeholders to reduce potential issues and maintain smooth operations on site. 

Preparation work, which started well ahead of the actual construction phase, involved discussion between all airport-based companies to assess requirements, analyze scenarios, and establish contingency plans. Procedures for incoming and outgoing flights were aligned between the different players to ensure transparency, communication, and the implementation of a solid decision-making process.  

The first phase of the refurbishment, which was performed in 2020, required the complete closure of the runway during night hours, from 23:00 to 06:00. Given Cargolux’s worldwide operation, and unique network, each flight that could potentially reach or depart Luxembourg during the curfew was assessed to determine a solution based on its priority level.   

A daily call was organized by the airport owner to discuss the upcoming schedule and airport operations with the stakeholders.  Meetings were also organized internally twice daily including all critical departments within the company to examine the situation. A morning call aimed to plan the day and make decisions to accommodate the airport closure, and the afternoon call served to make adjustments to this plan based on the day’s developments. 

Every aspect of the flight was considered to ensure the best possible solution was found; cargo on board, loading/off-loading time, potential impact on the network, availability of crews, and maintenance requirements. 

From ops control to hub steering, from maintenance, to crew control, network management, and area operations managers, Cargolux drew on its expertise at numerous levels to find adequate solutions and minimize disruptions.  

Cargolux’s in-house innovation team also developed a special dashboard, accessible to the project team, to keep track of all flight and operational information in real time. The tool also displayed the daily plan for all flights, so each station was aware of potential impacts and actions required at their destination.  This allowed the team to have a complete overview of the requirements for each flight and work on any hindrances before they became critical. 

Claude Zehren, EVP Flight Operations, who was coordinating the project on Cargolux’s behalf, is extremely satisfied with the execution of the refurbishment. “The project ran very smoothly. All the airport stakeholders worked together transparently and coordinated to find solutions if an issue arose. Cargolux managed to operate without too many hiccups thanks to the dedication of those involved. It was a real pleasure to witness this remarkable team spirit and the focus on what was most important, keeping the operation running”, highlights Claude. 

The cooperation between the Cargolux teams was the backbone of this successful endeavor. In addition to the regular monitoring of operations around the globe, careful consideration was given to special cargo such as CV jumbo shipments that could require more ground time for loading or offloading, airport congestion which could affect ground time, and planned maintenance schedules.  

Every department involved in the discussion contributed their expertise and shared the developments related to their area to ensure data and knowledge-based decision were made. Diversions to a neighboring airport were of course included in the contingency plan but this solution was only required once thanks to the excellent work the teams demonstrated”, says Claude. 

The runway refurbishment is planned to take place over two years between Spring and Autumn. This careful planning foresees a hiatus during the winter months which also correspond to the traditional high season in air cargo. The first segment of the work has now been completed and Cargolux is very satisfied with the outcome of the process. The airline is steadfastly confident that the second phase will run just as smoothly thanks to the cohesion, communication, and mutual assistance.

Managing this additional restriction during a very busy period is a remarkable achievement. The whole team can be proud of itself
Claude Zehren, EVP Flight Operations