E-commerce drives China-Russia airfreight links

AirBridgeCargo, and fellow Russian carrier Aeroflot, are reporting stunning growth in airfreight demand. The Russian Post meanwhile, is adding new scheduled freighter flights between China and Russia, leveraging growing cross-border e-commerce demand.  Photo: Alex Kwanten

The Express Logistics arm of China Post reached an agreement with the Russian Post to have its affiliate airline, Aviastar-TU operate a TU-204-100C freighter on scheduled thrice-weekly service between Novosibirsk and Hangzhou, according to a report in Xinhua. Although flight frequencies and capacity are relatively insignificant given the volumes moving between China and Russia, they are indicative of what is to come as China’s integrators continue to expand, and as Russian airport infrastructure continues to become more cargo-friendly.

This “cross-border e-commerce link” became the first direct air cargo connection to Hangzhou from Novosibirsk on 11 August, with a maiden departure from Hangzhou, the home of e-commerce giant Alibaba. The new service is a faster alternative to the rail and road modes of transportation that China Post currently utilizes. A spokesman for China Post said that each flight will offer 28.5 tonnes of capacity, and is expected to halve door-to-door parcel delivery time between Novosibirsk and Hangzhou to about 7 days (including Customs clearance).

In 2016, an estimated 10 million Russia-bound parcels were dispatched from Hangzhou, nearly double 2015 parcel volumes. While a significant volume of mail is moving with other carriers, Russian Post, through Avistar-TU, has been operating flights to Zhengzhou and Harbin from Novosibirsk since the beginning of 2017. Additional connections between China, and Russian gateways like Novosibirsk and Moscow are currently being evaluated by other carriers as well.

Looking ahead, at least some of Russia’s airports will soon be better-equipped to handle additional freighter flights. Next month Sheremetyevo Airport, in conjunction with the Volga-Dnepr Group and Aeroflot will inaugurate a new 43,000 sq. meter facility which boasts cargo handling capacity of 380,000 tonnes –making it the largest air cargo facility in Russia. This is welcom news for Moscow-based carriers AirBridgeCargo Airlines, and Aeroflot, which in recent months have been racking up astonishing growth numbers.

To hear more about how cross-border e-commerce is driving demand for air freight, join us at the Cargo Facts Symposium in Miami, 2 – 4 October, where SF Express Americas General Manager Patrick Frith, and JD.Com’s Director, International Communications Lori Chao, will be speaking. To register, or for more information, go to CargoFactsSymposium.com.

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