China's air cargo transport on full-throttle flight

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/29 19:53:40

Chinese medical experts and Pakistani officials pose for a group photo at the Islamabad International Airport in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, March 28, 2020. An 8-member medical expert team organized by the Chinese government arrived here on Saturday to help Pakistan fight the COVID-19 pandemic.Photo:Xinhua

China's effective coronavirus containment has set the stage for the nation's air cargo capacity to rebound to pre-virus levels, as officials are encouraging its airlines to up the ante in all-cargo freighters.

The number of international all-cargo flights operated by Chinese and foreign airlines is set to increase to 930 per week, nearing its pre-virus levels, Zhang Qing, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China,  said on Sunday.

With a continued improvement in the domestic virus situation, increased utilization of all-cargo carriers, and support policies and measures, strains in the country's air cargo capacity have seen signs of easing, according to Zhang. 

The rebound, nevertheless, can't hide concerns that have become prominent amid the virus onslaught.  

China has only 173 all-cargo aircraft now, compared with 550 in the US, ac-cording to Ren Hong, a senior official from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

The 173 aircraft only account for 4.5 percent of China's civil aviation transport fleet, Ren said. There are 10 all-cargo airlines, out of 55 airlines, in China. The country has encouraged aviation and logistics providers' air cargo push, Ren said. 

There are apparent weak links in the country's international air cargo capacity, a State Council executive meeting said on Tuesday. 

Air cargo carried in the holds of international passenger airliners has taken a big hit from the coronavirus outbreak, weighing on international supply chains of China's industries, according to the meeting, urging efforts to boost the country's international air cargo capacity. 

All-cargo freighters owned by the country's three major cargo carriers - China Postal Airlines, SF Airlines, and YTO Express Airlines - have now hit 100, said Jin Jinghua, director of the Policy and Regulation Department of the State Post Bureau, the country's postal service regulator, on Sunday.

China shipped more than 2.1 billion parcels and express packages overseas in 2019 mostly via air cargo, weighing 750,000 tons, according to Jin.

Homegrown cargo airline SF Airlines has the country's largest all-cargo fleet with 61 all-cargo freighters, which succeeded in its task - the transport of over 90 percent of N95 respirators to Central China's Hubei Province, Ren revealed. 

"We have long been actively supporting the rollout of all-cargo freight transport by airlines and logistics firms," she said, calling for a deeper integration between airlines and logistics firms.

In another sign of ramped-up efforts, China's first all-cargo airport being built in Ezhou, Hubei Province, is estimated to be put into operation as early as the end of next year, the NDRC official disclosed. 

Construction of the airport began in the second half of 2019 but faced some delays due to the virus epidemic, although it has recommenced.

Newspaper headline: Nation's air cargo transport on full-throttle flight


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