Chinese cargo carriers on merger track

China’s air cargo industry is all-change as expansion and mergers take place amid government pronouncements of the need for industry consolidation to create a Chinese mega-cargo carrier. By Donald Urquhart.

Air China Cargo plans to introduce two additional freighters this year as it focuses on expanding its transpacific route to North America, as well as to Europe, Air China Cargo managing director for marketing & sales, Wang Hongyan told Payload Asia on thesidelines of the Air Cargo China event.

“The plan is to introduce two flights per year, step-by-step, long haul with wide-body freighters to Europe and the US,” Wang said, adding that the aircraft would likely be conversions of B747 aircraft drawn from the passenger side.

The cargo division currently serves 14 international destinations and operates seven B747-400 freighters, as well as having substantial belly hold capacity from the passenger airline’s diverse fleet of 264 aircraft comprising Airbus, Boeing and Tupolev aircraft including three B747-400s and five B747-400 Combies. The passenger side also has orders for 151 aircraft, as at February 2010, which includes 15 B777-300ERs and 15 B787-800s.

In 2009 Air China Cargo saw 45 per cent of its cargo volumes carried aboard its freighters with the 55 per cent generated from the passenger bellies. But in the first half of this year, the percentage has equalised to 50:50, according to Wang. “The trend of development for the cargo division is to increase the percentage of the freighter volumes. If we can lower the dependence on thepassenger side we have more flexibility so we want to increase the freighterpercentage so we can control our future.”