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China’s cross-border e-commerce volumes are surging, prompting new charter flights and freighter routes to keep up with demand.
Alibaba’s logistics unit, Cainiao Smart Logistics Network, said this week it would increase its charter flights to 1,260 over the next nine months.
It chartered 200 flights during March and April, an increase from an average 100 to around 140 flights a month.
Cainiao said the additional flights would allow it to halve its average international airfreight delivery time to three-to-five days – in 2015, it said the “ultimate goal” was to deliver internationally in 72 hours.
In March, a new five-flights-a-week charter service was launched from Cainiao’s home base of Hangzhou to Kuala Lumpur, while other new routes include dedicated flights from Hangzhou, Hong Kong and Harbin to Moscow, Tel Aviv and Liege.
General manager Zhao Jian told media: “The plan is that our intelligent technology could match products waiting for delivery and aircraft with cargo transport capacity available, and work efficiently within our network.”
Shenzhen-based SF Airlines, meanwhile, has also launched a string of international routes this year, including Chennai, Delhi, Los Angeles, Osaka, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Tokyo, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok. The subsidiary of integrator SF Express operates over 20 international freighter flights a week.
According to Seko Logistics, China’s e-commerce volumes have broken records this year, as stuck-at-home shoppers ramp up their online ordering.
“Some Chinese consolidators bought 10-12 flights in one contract to keep the goods flowing,” said Chaminda Gunasekera, the 3PL’s senior director, airfreight, e-commerce and network development, APAC & MEA. “Because one of the biggest challenges with e-com line-haul has been the constantly changing rates, which mostly increased, as well as capacity fluctuations.”
For Cainiao, the flight network expansion is being rolled-out alongside further investment in its overseas warehousing footprint, which it plans to double to 2m sq metres in three years.
“The expanded capacity, as well as Cainiao’s close partnerships with over 30 customs clearance facilities, are set to help expedite the 30m China-bound products processed by the logistics platform every day,” Cainiao said.
Small and medium-sized businesses will also be able to leverage the additional warehouse space to pre-stock for export and fulfill their orders faster, the company added, estimating this would ensure 90% of orders shipped “from China” will arrive in less than 72 hours to 100 cities globally.
Cainiao president Wan Lin said: “Today, logistics has become a game-changer and key differentiator that sets one business apart from another. Our investment to establish a global smart logistics network will provide businesses with greater operational efficiency, cost savings, transparency and accuracy in their supply chain management.”