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Powering China's air express upstream

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-10-15 11:57
YTO Express Group Co launched a new freight route from Yinchuan in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region to Turpan in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region via Xi'an, Shaanxi province, last October. [Photo by Li Ming / For China Daily]

Food-loving Chinese have never been as lucky as today, thanks to the country's surging air express industry that transports fresh food around easily from home and abroad.

The emerging industry is powering China in the global market, facilitating economic growth and bringing new business opportunities worldwide.

UPSTREAM GROWTH

A new "engine" of the global air cargo industry, China is impressing the world with intensive progresses in freighter fleet, air freight volume, an expanding air route network and emerging enterprises.

In July 2018, China's air freight transport rose 8.7 percent year-on-year to 595,000 tonnes, including 207,000 tonnes in international air freight sector, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

Meanwhile, global air cargo transport demand gained only 2.1 percent year-on-year in freight tonne kilometers, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

"China is the most exciting and dynamic market in the world. The continuous growth in its economy and middle class sustains the country's upward aviation market," said Randy Tinseth, vice president of commercial marketing for Boeing. "As China has the world's fastest growing e-commerce industry, demand for air-cargo freighters is also expected to expand exponentially."

Boeing forecasts that China will demand 200 new air-cargo freighters and 470 converted freighters over the next 20 years.

In 2017, China transported 7.06 million tonnes of airmail cargo, up 5.6 percent year on year, according to CAAC.

AMBITIOUS EXPANSION

In fact, China's express giants are ambitious to add more freighters to expand air route networks and industry-related facilities.

SF Airlines, the aviation branch of China's express giant SF Express, opened a new direct all-cargo air route linking Shenzhen, in south China's Guangdong Province, with Singapore, on Sept. 4.

The B767-300 freighter carried China-made mobile phone spare parts and other cargo, which were in high demand. The new route came soon after the airline opened a direct cargo route between Shenzhen and Chennai, in southern India, in early August.

"The aviation sector is the key power in SF's express network, thanks to its unique features in fast and high-quality transport," said Bao Weiguang, public affairs director of SF Airlines.

"And the intensive opening of international cargo routes strengthens our capacity to quickly respond to market demand and serve our customers with a competitive network," Bao said.

The Shenzhen-based SF Airlines has China's largest all-freighter fleet, with 47 aircraft.

Aiming high in air express, China's major express companies are manifesting their ambitions by expanding the international route network and enhancing their global presence.

China's YTO Airlines opened a direct air cargo route linking Changsha, capital of central China's Hunan Province, and Manila, capital of the Philippines, on Sept. 21, shortly after it opened the Zhengzhou-Tokyo international air route.

GREAT POTENTIAL

"Being fast and efficient is the lifeline of the express. China's express industry has unprecedented momentum for lifting air cargo transport capacity," said Kevin Wu, vice president of Textron Aviation.

Over the past decades, mass transport of goods is the major source of growth in China's air cargo industry.

Emerging e-commerce, featuring loose goods from scattered online stores, has gradually changed the source, structure as well as the volume of China's air cargo.

Wu believes Chinese express companies should deploy their fleet with large freighters as well as small-and-medium general airplanes, which will facilitate "point-to-point delivery", like their western peers such as the FedEx and UPS.

More and more general airports and cargo airports are on the way. China is expected to have more than 500 general airports, making each prefecture-level city enjoy an airport service.

"SF Airlines is creating an air route network with nationwide coverage and global radiation. More freighters are also joining," Bao said.

"To date, the airline has created a network with three air hubs and dozens of routes. The air express capacity is sustaining the quick expansion of SF's express business at home and abroad."

According to Tinseth, China's e-commerce market has the highest trading scale in the world, given the enormous developmental potential of its cargo transport market

"We feel a large amount of enthusiasm from our customers in the air cargo business and are confident in continuously supporting their growth in the dynamic market in China," Tinseth said.

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