Chinese e-tailer JD.com has chartered a 737-300F to improve its parcel delivery services across the country. The aircraft (27518, ex-Air China) has begun flying between Shenzhen (SZX) and Wuxi (WUX), operated by Zhejiang Loong Airlines (or Loong Air).
JD told Cargo Facts the aircraft, with JD Express branding, is dedicated to the route at this stage of its partnership with Loong Air, with the aim of operating six times a week. JD said it needed the flexibility of having a full freighter as opposed to relying on the belly space of passenger flights, given COVID-19-related cancellations. JD added that it is in need of the additional capacity; the 737-300F is capable of carrying 130 cubic meters and 14 tonnes.
In the next phase of the partnership, JD plans to launch a flight between WUX and Tianjin (TSN), but declined to say if that would be operated by unit 27518 or another chartered aircraft.
Loong Air, for its part, was launched as CDI Cargo Airlines in 2012, with a focus on narrowbody freighter operations. Since 2013, it has gradually shifted its focus to passenger operations and now has just three 737Fs in its fleet, which also contains dozens of A320s. Earlier this year, Loong established a new JV carrier — Sichuan Double Dragon Airlines — with the Sichuan Airport Development Group and hinted at a renewed focus in cargo. Apart from the 737-300F flying for JD, Loong has two other active 737-300Fs (27372 and 25891, both ex-Air China).
JD has partnerships with various carriers, including Air China, China Southern and China Eastern Airlines, but the Loong Air aircraft is the only dedicated aircraft the company is chartering for an own-controlled freighter network at this time, JD confirmed to Cargo Facts.
In 2018, ahead of the 11.11 Shopping Holiday, JD Logistics contracted Tianjin Air Cargo to operate roundtrips between Tianjin (TSN) and Guangzhou (CAN) six times per week. While JD had initially expected the scale of the operation to expand, Tianjin Air Cargo stopped flying dedicated flights for JD last year, and the 737-300F emblazoned in JD’s livery (27362, ex-Suparna Airlines) does not appear to have flown since June 30, according to Flightaware.