Just when major competitors like Singapore Airlines and China Airlines are sidelining cargo planes in a desperate effort to arrest the decline in yields, Air China Cargo’s freighter fleet is looking to add new routes. The last two of four B747-400BCFs that Cathay Pacific is contributing to the joint venture with Air China are due to join the carrier’s lineup this month, bringing the total to 12 747 freighters.
ACC is looking to India to fill some of its new main-deck capacity. It has obtained approval for the Shanghai-Chennai sector and aims to fly the route three days a week. “We plan to combine it with Chongqing,” said Titus Diu, Air China Cargo’s COO. The up-and-coming destination in China’s interior will be served on the return leg from India to Shanghai. “We can carry cargo from India, plus we can feed traffic from Chongqing to our intercontinental departures out of Shanghai,” Diu said.
Elsewhere in Asia, ACC is looking at Dhaka, Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City. Applications for these destinations are in the pipeline, but management has not made a final decision on routes and frequencies yet.
The second focus for the carrier’s freighter expansion is China’s interior, where the migration of manufacturing has driven up demand for airfreight capacity. This started last year, when the ACC venture was preparing for take-off, with the introduction of Chengdu into the network. Same as with the planned Chennai-Chongqing operation, Chengdu was inserted into a route from Europe to Shanghai, so ACC could top up its flights in Chengdu with cargo headed for intercontinental departures out of Shanghai.
Zhengzhou, the third of the up and coming production centers in China’s interior, is next on the agenda. “We plan to have Zhengzhou in the network early in the second quarter of this year,” Diu said. One likely routing would see the new gateway added as a stop in both directions on a new Shanghai-Europe flight, Diu confirmed.