Guangzhou-based all-cargo carrier Longhao Airlines launched eleven-months ago with a single 737-300F. By year-end 2017, the carrier, which operates charter flights almost exclusively for Shenzhen-based SF Airlines, had three 737-300Fs in service. In February, Longhao added units four and five (29108, 29109), and outlined plans to further grow its narrowbody freighter fleet to seven 737Fs before the end of the year, according to a company release [FATs 004270 – 4271, 004275 – 4276].
Given the nature of Longhao’s relationship with SF Airlines, the carrier has not invested heavily in a robust cargo sales and marketing team; Cargo Facts, however, expects this to change in the coming years, once Longhao’s joint-venture airport in the centrally-located interior city of Yueyang becomes operational in 2020.
The Yueyang Airport project has been in the works since December 2015 when Yuehao Group, a Longhao subsidiary, and Yueyang Sanhe Airport established Yueyang Airport Operation Development Co., Ltd, to manage and operate the airport once it opens in 2020. Longhao Airlines has since said that because of Sanhe Airport’s ability to serve 80% of the Chinese population within a two-hour flight radius, the airport will become a core hub in Longhao’s “1 + 8 + N” freight network that comprises of jet freighters, lower-altitude turboprops, and a road-feeder network.
Due to the difficulty of securing slots at many of China’s busier airports, it is currently difficult for Longhao to operate scheduled flights with its own flight numbers. However, once Yueyang Airport becomes operational, the carrier could choose to branch out into a scheduled cargo carrier to complement its ACMI/Charter activities.
Returning to the present, Longhao’s two newest additions from GECAS (29109 and 29108) are in maintenance and will soon be inducted into the Longhao fleet under registrations B-1109 and B-1110. Longhao also took the temporary lull during the Lunar New Year Holiday as an opportunity to perform maintenance on its three existing 737-300Fs – each aircraft passed through the GAMECO facility during the final weeks of February, before reentering commercial service at the end of the holiday. As for Longhao’s two other planned additions, no formal announcement has been made, though Cargo Facts would not be surprised if GECAS once again facilitates this transaction.
We take this opportunity to note that the days of adding 737-300Fs and 737-400Fs are numbered, as viable conversion feedstock becomes increasingly scarce. The good news is that there will be plenty of alternatives available from both Airbus and Boeing. Those interested in learning more about the first 737 NG freighter conversions, or the upcoming A320 and A321-family conversions, are invited to join us in Shanghai 23-25 April for Cargo Facts Asia 2018 where a lively roundtable panel discussion will be dedicated to the topic. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com.