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'Take off' for air cargo industry

By Hu Tao | Xinhua | Updated: 2018-10-24 10:02
Goods are loaded onto an airplane of SF Airlines. [Photo provided to China Daily]

China making rapid progress in fleet size, freight volume, air route network expansion

China's foodies have never been so lucky, thanks to the country's surging air express industry that transports fresh food easily from home and abroad.

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

A new engine of the global air cargo industry, China is capturing the world's attention with its rapid progress in terms of freighter fleets, air freight volume, expanding air route networks and emerging enterprises.

In July 2018, China transported 595,000 metric tons of air freight, up 8.7 percent year-on-year, including 207,000 tons in the international air freight sector, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

That compares to just a 2.1 percent rise in global air cargo transport demand year-on-year in freight ton kilometers, according to the International Air Transport Association.

"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 China will require 200 new air cargo freighters and 470 converted freighters over the next 20 years.

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

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 largest package courier SF Express, opened a new direct all-cargo air route linking Shenzhen in Guangdong province with Singapore on Sept 4.

The B767-300 freighter was carrying China-made mobile phone spare parts among its cargo. The new route came soon after the airline opened a direct cargo route between Shenzhen and Chennai in southern India in early August.

Randy Tinseth, vice-president of commercial marketing for Boeing. [Photo/VCG]

"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.

"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.

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

Aiming high, China's major express companies are manifesting their ambitions by expanding their international route networks 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 its Zhengzhou-Tokyo international air route.

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

In recent decades, mass goods transportation has been the major source of growth in China's air cargo industry.

The emerging e-commerce sector, featuring loose goods from scattered online stores, has gradually changed the source, structure and volume of China's air cargo.

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

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

"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 from Boeing, 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 high degree 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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