Chengdu-based Sichuan Airlines has selected Brussels as the first international destination to be served by the carrier’s incoming A330-200Fs. Thrice-weekly flights are expected to launch before the end of April, according to Brussels Airport.
Cargo Facts reported in May that three BOC Aviation owned A330-200Fs coming off lease with Qatar Airways would likely end up with the carrier. In recent months, these plans have been firmed up, and the first aircraft (1350) was repainted and will be delivered to the carrier shortly. The other two, are expected by mid-year, the airline tells Cargo Facts.
Although Sichuan Airlines does not currently operate any freighters of its own, the carrier has been laying the foundation for the development of a freighter fleet for quite some time. Last year, the carrier took the first step by creating a cargo subsidiary, Sichuan Airlines Logistics Co Ltd (SALCO). Not much had happened with SALCO in the year since its formation, but recently Sichuan Airlines General Manager Yan Chen told Xinhua he expected to “introduce state-owned capital” in the second half of this year, after which SALCO would expand the scope of its business from just managing the airline’s belly cargo to become a logistics giant that, in addition to acquiring freighters, would also become a major 3PL and operate an inter-city courier service. The plan also calls for the logistics company to increase its revenue from the current CNY400 million yuan to CNY3 billion over the next five years.
In the coming years, Sichuan Airlines is expected to build out its cargo operations at Chengdu Airport, where the carrier is based. In the near-term, however, sources familiar with the airline’s plans suggest the airline may consider launching flights from Xi’an (XIY).
For the carrier, cargo density will be the key to successfully leveraging the fleet of A330-200Fs. Indeed, cross-border express and e-commerce volumes moving through Western China are burgeoning, but the density of such cargo is typically much lower than that of general cargo. Average densities for express cargo is thought to be around 6.5lbs/sq. ft. General cargo, on the other hand, is denser at around 10lbs/sq. ft. With a long-distance range and a cube that more closely aligns with the demands of general cargo, Sichuan will need to carry a mix of high and low-density freight.
Apart from the A330-200Fs, Sichuan Airlines is considering other fleet types for future expansion. Those interested in hearing more from the airline are invited to join us 15-17 April at the Langham Shanghai for Cargo Facts Asia 2019. Jinfeng Sun, Party Secretary, Sichuan Air Logistics Co., Ltd. will speak on a roundtable panel discussion on the topic of emerging gateways and trade lanes in Asia.
Sun is an air cargo veteran with 20 years of experience and was appointed Party Secretary of Sichuan Airlines Logistics Co. Ltd (SAL) in 2017, where SAL is wholly-owned subsidiaries of SC. She was in charge of planning and development of air logistics, and enterprise management.
For more information about Cargo Facts Asia, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com