Less than two weeks to go! On April 24, the airline will operate its first Boeing 747 freighter to Zhengzhou in central China. The day marks the beginning of scheduled flights between the Grand Duchy and the capital of Henan Province. These services are the backbone of the commercial agreement signed recently between the Government of Luxembourg and Chinese public investor HNCA.
Cranes, excavators, and scaffolds: Zhengzhou Airport and the neighboring plots of land have lately turned into a large building site. The metropolis of nine million inhabitants, located half way between Shanghai and Beijing, is eager to become one of China’s premier logistics addresses. First the building of the required ground infrastructure and next transports to follow is the credo of Zhengzhou’s government. A strategy that is in full accord and thus widely supported by Henan Province’s political leaders.
Phase two of this long-term strategy has begun last summer, when an initial cargo train was set on track linking Zhengzhou with Hamburg and Duisburg via the vast Eurasian land bridge. What started as single project has meanwhile turned more or less into regular traffic.
Simultaneously, Zhengzhou looked at opportunities to get the city’s airport on the international cargo landscape. As a result, background talks with Luxembourg’s Government for taking over 35 percent in Cargolux began – and were concluded earlier this year.
The price Luxembourg’s airline had to pay for getting investor HNCA on board was accepting the Chinese side’s demand to set up a base at Zhengzhou Xingzhen International Airport. Once implemented, Cargolux will follow a dual-hub strategy centered on Luxembourg’s Findel airport in Europe and on Zhengzhou’s Xinzheng International Airport in Asia. The carrier emphasizes that this dual-hub strategy is a major pillar of the Commercial Cooperation Agreement between Cargolux and HNCA.
Despite some concerns voiced by top managers like Robert van de Weg or Peter van de Pas, who have meanwhile left Cargolux, the Supervisory Board strongly advocated the partnership with the Asian investor. A reasonable move, comments spokesman Ronny Wolff of Luxembourg’s influential Logistics Cluster, since both sides have complementary interests. “Neither Henan nor Luxembourg have direct access to a deep water seaport due to their centrally located geographical positions. That’s why they have to find other logistic solutions for importing and exporting goods.” And in contrast to Cargolux’s former partner Qatar Airways “there is no rivalry or competition between the two sides as Henan does not have a home carrier that could challenge Cargolux’s sales.”
The services will commence on 24 April and comprise two flights per week. Eastbound they will be operated via Baku on the Caspian Sea due to the lucrative oil and gas biz Cargolux is traditionally one of the major equipment suppliers of. The Luxembourg to Zhengzhou flights will be stepped up gradually to at least four each week, states the carrier in a release. It further reads: “Zhengzhou is ideally located in central China with daily road feeder services to cities such as Beijing and Shanghai and services to inland cities such as Xi’an, Wuhan, Chengdu and Chongqing.”
Cargolux points out that in addition to Zhengzhou scheduled flights are operated to Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen, making China a key market for the carrier.