SF Airlines at Nanjing Photo 159423363 Aircraft © Aleksandar Pavlovic Dreamstime.com
© Aleksandar Pavlovic

SF Airlines has launched a 400-tonne capacity, twice-weekly service between Europe and Ezhou-Huahu Airport in Hubei, China.

The first service left Hubei on Saturday, carrying 100 tonnes of freight, touching down some 11 hours later in Liege – but some in the industry believe this may not be the best time to inject more capacity into a soft market.

The director of SF Airlines’ logistics hub at Hubei, Zhang Hao, said through cooperation agreements between Liege and Ezhou-Huahu, SF would “form a strongly correlated international transport channel” as it looked for carriers to expand the cargo reach of its new gateway.

However, data from WorldACD indicates air cargo tonnage continues its downward trajectory.

Volumes from Europe to Asia Pacific dipped 5% last week, compared with the two previous weeks, while those from Asia Pacific to Europe remained flat. Year on year, the picture looks equally poor, with a 7% dip in exports, despite recent gains, and a 20% bump in capacity not helping.

Forwarders have also questioned the need for a new China all-cargo routing. One forwarder told The Loadstar: “Market demand for air freight is light and slight, I can’t really see any benefit coming from this, unless Apple or someone else has a factory nearby. But it’s China, it builds what it likes, where it likes, and lets it sit there until it could be needed.

“It would have been useful in the pandemic; as it is, it has either come too late to the market, or too early, because now’s not a good time for a freight airport.”

Developed by SF, Ezhou-Huahu commenced domestic cargo operations in November and is seemingly keen to add more new capacity, with China’s state press agency Xinhua claiming the airport will be handling more than 3m tonnes of cargo annually by 2030.

And China’s Superna Airlines launched a 747 service between Nantong Xingdong International Airport and Leipzig at the start of last month, expected to run twice weekly.

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