The air cargo market into and out of China has long been considered one of the most lucrative around the globe.
A host of carriers operate widebody passenger and freighter services into China in order to gain part of the still booming air cargo market.
Many have until now been foreign airlines which until a year or two ago dominated the market.
Now, maybe things are starting to change.
Chinese wide-body operators are growing
Statistics recently shown by CAPA Centre for Aviation underline the fact that there are now ten Chinese airlines which operate with wide body aircraft within China and some to other parts of the globe.
This figure, says CAPA, will change in the near future with a projected seventeen China-registered airlines being in the air.
Some of these new and older airlines have unpronounceable names and have their main bases in other areas of China outside of the well-known hubs of Shanghai, Beijing etc.
Will this development then affect traditional European and American freight
As internal Chinese cargo capacity increases and more of these 17 or so airlines become international, traditional European carriers will have to be on the lookout that they don’t lose out.
Cargolux with its new hub in Zhengzhou and the expected start of Cargolux China in 2017, maybe one of those who can best combat future competition from this area.
But, what about the rest?
At the recent Farnborough Air Show, Chinese airlines were there to order the latest long-haul planes such as the Boeing 787, Airbus A330 and A350.
Pure freighter orders were few and far between with AirBridgeCargo being the exception by confirming their order for 20 additional B747-8Fs, a few of which they have already in the fleet.
Once they have the wide bodies in their fleet, the Chinese airlines will also want to fly cross border traffic. Some of it in the South East Asia region, but also further afield to Europe,
Australia and the USA.
Joint ventures or new code share agreements will be on the books and some of the now traditional carriers which are having a tough time to make ends meet with cargo revenues and yields, will be forced to look for Chinese airline partners to team up with.
Chinese capacity growth is unstoppable
It is only four years ago that there were just five Chinese carriers using wide body equipment.
Today there are ten and in another four years it will be at least seventeen, if not more.
Time maybe for some carriers on this side of the water to start cementing relationships and strategies with these new dominators.
The list is long, but interesting, ranging from Low Cost Carriers to regional start-ups with long haul ambitions and abundant belly space for cargo carriage.
The other possibility of course is whether due to the influx of new carriers in China, that a so-called consolidation of airlines in some areas of this vast country may be a better solution in order to keep things under control.
John Mc Donagh
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