3 airports to watch as Pudong continues to face flight restrictions

Unable to launch flights to Shanghai-area airports, Hangzhou-based YTO Airlines has begun serving other airports in the region.

During a brief hiatus last year when flights into and out of Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG)  met CAAC’s timeliness standard for a period of three consecutive months, it seemed the airport might be allowed to continue adding flights. That, however, is no longer the case. PVG is once again barred from accepting new flight applications until at least 30 April.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has re-evaluated the timeliness of flight departures and frequency of cancellations for carriers and airports operating within the country and on Monday issued an updated list of punitive measures and growth restrictions. While it looks like Beijing’s Capital Airport (PEK) could soon resume accepting applications for new flights, mainland China’s busiest cargo airport, Shanghai Pudong (PVG), has once again found itself on the “restrictive measures” list, causing quite the quandary for airlines facing increasing demands for cargo and mail flows moving through the country’s most populous city.

The CAAC said the latest restrictions were a result of excessive delays and cancellations last summer, between July and September 2017. Uncertainty in the near-term has some carriers, primarily China’s domestic express carriers, exploring alternative airports.

For cargo carriers, road feeder and overland options enable regional airports the ability to handle overflow cargo demand from Pudong in ways that are not feasible for passenger airlines. Here are three promising cargo airports to watch within a 150km radius of PVG:

  1. Nantong Airport (NTG), located 130km to the north of Pudong Airport, has recently added cargo flights, and now has the presence of a major cargo terminal operator. SF Airlines currently has flights to four destinations from NTG (three of which are operated by Guangzhou-based Longhao Airlines). Separately, in December 2016, PVG’s largest terminal operator, PACTL established a joint-venture cargo terminal at Nantong, indicating that international cargo flights may soon follow.
  2. Wuxi (WUX), located 136km to the west of Pudong Airport, already has flights to Beijing and Shenzhen operated by SF Airlines as well as Longhao-operated flights to additional destinations. Cargo Facts believes the airport also has potential as a hub for international express cargo. YTO took the plunge when it launched its first flight to Hong Kong from Wuxi in January.
  3. Ningbo (NGB) located 150 km to the south of Shanghai already boasts quite a few international flights and is close to both Shanghai and Hangzhou, the latter being the home of e-tailer Alibaba. SF Airlines flies to Taiwan and Hong Kong from NGB, while Suparna maintains service to Japan and other domestic destinations in China from the airport.

Returning to the CAAC bulletin, dozens of carriers at about twenty airports across the country are blocked from adding new flights or adjusting existing flight plans until at least 31 May. We point out that absent from the list are NTG, WUX and NGB airports.

As for Shanghai Airports, despite persistent restrictions to the number of flights they can add, cargo volumes continue to increase year-over-year. In 2017, the combined cargo handle of Shanghai Pudong International and Hongqiao International grew by about 10%, surpassing 4,000,000 tonnes. But if carriers are blocked from expanding, they will fly elsewhere.

Those interested in learning more about China’s cargo hotspots and the region’s emerging cargo gateways are invited to join us 23-25 April at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong in Shanghai where a roundtable panel discussion will be dedicated to the topic. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com 

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