Leipzig and Wuhan Draw up Airport Cooperation Plan

A high caliber delegation from the German state of Saxony and top representatives of the Chinese Hubei Province announced joint initiatives to build a new cargo airport near Wuhan. Furthermore, they outlined plans for express flights linking Leipzig and Wuhan. The projects are laid down in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by representatives of both sides.

Sino-German MoU signing ceremony (at table): Tu Wei, Group VP, SF Express (sitting left) / Johannes Jaehn, MD Leipzig/Halle Aiport (center) / Yang Zhibo, General Manager of the Ministry of Construction Hubei (sitting right) - courtesy: Mitteldeutsche Airport AG

At their meeting in Wuhan, leading members of the Sino-German delegations made it very clear that building a new cargo airport comes first, followed by intercontinental freighter flights between the two cities for fast deliveries of e-commerce goods. The announcement was made on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the treaty of friendship signed by Saxony state and Hubei Province. Leipzig’s key role is to assist in planning, constructing and operating Wuhan’s future freight hub from day one. In this field they have gained considerable experience since Leipzig/Halle Airport had to be completely modernized and expanded a decade ago as a precondition to accommodate DHL Express, whose largest global hub LEJ meanwhile is.

SF Express will add two former Jade B747-400ERF to their freighter fleet
SF Express will add two former Jade B747-400ERF to their freighter fleet

SF Express eyes Leipzig flights
Once step one is accomplished, part two of the project outlined in the MoU is scheduled to follow: freighter flights linking Wuhan and Leipzig, transporting express shipments between central China and Germany. Operator will be China’s largest private courier firm SF Express. Their fleet comprises 40 all-cargo aircraft, including 18 Boeing 757Fs, 17 Boeing 737Fs and five Boeing 767Fs. However, none of them is capable of flying nonstop between Wuhan and Leipzig. Not for the time being at least, but this fleet gap will soon be closed following their acquisition of two former Jade Cargo International operated Boeing 747-400 extended range freighters.


Former Jade Jumbos are the door opener for the route
The aircraft were parked at Shenzhen Airport since 2013 when Jade filed for insolvency and proved unsalable until now despite many attempts. Last Tuesday, however, they were finally sold to bidder SF Express following an auction on Taobao, the online shopping platform belonging to Alibaba. According to local media, SF Express paid €20.7 million and €20.5 million respectively for the two freight Jumbos. 
Adding these aircraft to their fleet, once thorough maintenance works and imperative technical enhancements are completed, SF Express would well be able to fly the 8,200 km distant route Wuhan-Leipzig nonstop.
Next project: flights Chongqing-Leipzig
“In becoming a logistics hub for air transport between China and Europe, Leipzig-Halle can sustainably benefit from the upcoming flights operated by SF Express,” explains Johannes Jaehn, helmsman of the Saxon Airport.
At a further stopover of the German delegation in Chongqing, the city’s Lord Mayor Chen Luyping together with Saxon’s environment minister Thomas Schmidt tabled plans to establish regular flights connecting Leipzig and the mega-city of 30 million inhabitants. Both sides signed a corresponding agreement that provides for flights commencing next year already.

Heiner Siegmund

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