Germany’s airports sprout cargo connections to China

A common sight at Hahn Airport, Yangtze River Airlines’ fleet currently includes three 747F-400BDSFs.

Rapidly growing cross-border e-commerce coupled with the desire of Chinese express companies to add international connections to their air networks is causing a flurry of activity at German airports. Although multiple airports throughout Germany are seeing additional scheduled freighter frequencies, Frankfurt-Hahn Airport (HHN) and Hanover-Langenhagen Airport (HAJ) are two airports of particular interest for China-to-Europe cargo flights.

Hahn Airport recently reported cargo tonnage for the first half of this year up 52% y-o-y to 49,000 tonnes on the back of additional flights from Etihad Cargo and Silk Way West Airlines, and increased tonnage moving on existing flights. Forwarder Senator International and carrier Air Atlanta Icelandic also added an additional 747-400F frequency on a rotation between Hahn and Greenville-Spartanburg Airport (GSP). Although some of the cargo moving on these flights is undoubtedly originating in China, Hahn has only begun to see the influence from China.

Last year China’s HNA Group (a conglomerate which now owns a wide range of airlines, leasing companies, airport services and hospitality-related businesses), acquired an 82.5% majority stake in HHN, and has since outlined plans for its air logistics subsidiaries to utilize the airport. In May, HNA Modern Logistics announced plans to establish an air hub in the city of Xi’an in Western China. Shortly after, HNA’s Shanghai-based cargo airline, Yangtze River Airlines regularized flights to Europe and North America from Xi’an (via Shanghai). YRA currently operates flights to Hahn from Tianjin and Shanghai, and is reportedly in the planning stages of boosting frequencies to the Hahn from Xi’an.

HNA’s other affiliate airline, Hong Kong Air Cargo is another airline rumored to be considering flights to  Hahn, but doing so would likely require additional aircraft. As we have reported in the past, HNA leasing affiliate, Hong Kong International Aviation still has six 777Fs on deferred-order with Boeing.  YRA has also shown it is not reluctant to ACMI-lease extra capacity, following a recently inked deal with US-based Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings.

Speaking of ACMI-leased capacity, In May, we reported on China Post’s plans to expand its presence in Europe through a local subsidiary at Hanover’s Langenhagen Airport complete with scheduled cargo flights between Hannover and China. According to a report in Cargoforwarder Global, China Post is indeed moving forward with its plans to better-connect online shoppers in China with European goods (and to a lesser-extent, the Chinese diaspora in Europe with goods from China) but launching such an operation will take time.

Initially, China Express Germany will rely on existing belly capacity between China and major European gateway cities to consolidate inbound parcels. If demand warrants, the company’s director, UDO Sass says that direct cargo flights into Hannover could begin next year. Sass confirmed that China Post’s airline affiliate, China Postal Airlines will not be operating flights to Hahn, and that the group is involved in discussions with other carriers.

Given that China Postal Airlines is no stranger to CMI/ACMI operations, Cargo Facts believed this was the most likely path. As for the most plausible partner candidate for the China-Hanover flights, a mix of airlines and lessors with large freighters could handle the flying, after all, China Postal Airlines could do an ACMI deal with just about any widebody operator. We note the increasing popularity of such deals:  In addition to Atlas Air flying for YRA, Shanghai-based STO Express recently began cooperating with Azerbaijan-based Silk Way West Airlines to handle its east-west express traffic, with 747F flights between Hong Kong and Europe.

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