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MSC Buys Italian AlisCargo Airlines to Expand Branded Air Cargo Service

MSC Air Cargo
MSC continues to grow its branded air cargo service (MSC)

Published Aug 7, 2023 3:33 PM by The Maritime Executive

MSC has acquired a controlling stake in Italy’s only airline dedicated to the intercontinental transport of goods, AlisCargo Airlines, as part of the carriers’ plans to build out its air cargo operations. MSC joins competitors Maersk and CMA CGM both of which have also been moving to expand their branded air cargo operations.

The container carrier based in Switzerland has been moving to expand its air cargo operations including a bid in 2022 to be part of a group to acquire Alitalia successor ITA Airways. MSC abandon that effort but entered however into an agreement with a subsidiary of Atlas Air Worldwide that calls for the introduction of four Boeing 777 planes branded as MSC Air Cargo.

Under the terms of the new agreement, MSC immediately acquired a majority stake in AlisCargo Airlines, the Milan-based air freight carrier which is currently working to restart its operations. Founded in 2019 by Domenico Leali, the carrier had been using four converted Boeing 777 passenger airplanes but suspended operations last fall awaiting new equipment after a change in Italian law. AlisCargo Airlines plans to restart operations with the delivery of a Boeing 777F in early 2024. The company’s operating license was voluntarily withdrawn and is pending reinstatement and coinciding with that, MSC expects to acquire 100 percent of the company. 

“The acquisition of a majority share in AlisCargo Airlines is a step towards expanding MSC’s Air Cargo solution capabilities, and ultimately providing our customers with a quality and consistent offering,” said MSC Air Cargo Senior Vice President Jannie Davel. MSC said the transaction is yet another step to further developing MSC Air Cargo operations and creates a European gateway and transit point for MSC’s air cargo solutions.

The container company calls the air cargo service “a complementary solution to MSC’s core shipping services,” noting that it has been building up its air cargo offering through numerous strategic partnerships with sales agents and software providers.

Atlas and MSC took delivery of their second plane at the beginning of July, another Boeing 777-200 Freighter. Working with Atlas, MSC is offering around-the-world service to airports such as Mexico City, Indianapolis, Liege, Seoul, and Xiamen, with its two planes. In the next six months, they plan to add two more planes working with Atlas.

With the acquisition of AlisCargo Airlines in 2024, MSC Air Cargo will have a new operating license and a fleet of five wide-body aircraft.