Chengdu-based Sichuan Airlines plans to put its first A330-200F into commercial service by September, the carrier tells Cargo Facts. Originally, the carrier had planned to launch thrice-weekly flights between Chengdu Airport (CTU) and Brussels Airport (BRU) by the end of April.
Even though the carrier has registered its first aircraft (1406, ex-Qatar Airways) on lease from BOC Aviation, it will be a few more months before the aircraft enters commercial service [FAT 004908]. In the coming months, Sichuan Airlines plans to add a total of three A330-200Fs – all on lease from BOC Aviation. The freighters were originally leased to Qatar Airways, but were returned in January, February and March respectively [FATs 4811, 4835 and 4904]. Qatar Airways, meanwhile, has long hinted at a future focus on large widebody freighters. Last month the carrier’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, said the carrier plans to take delivery of four more 777Fs before year-end. For now, the Doha-based carrier continues to operate five owned A330-200Fs alongside a freighter fleet comprised of sixteen 777Fs and two 747-8Fs.
Returning to Chengdu, where Sichuan Airlines is based, local government officials in the province are vying for dominance in the regional air cargo market. Facing stiff competition from nearby airports such as Zhengzhou (CGO) and Xi’an (XIY), officials se a home-grown carrier as being critical to the success of a cargo airport. With a second airport under construction in Chengdu, additional throughput capacity is coming. But will carriers follow?