The battle is raging in China between various companies who are aiming to become the leaders in Chinese air cargo logistics in the future. There is not a day which goes by where companies
such as the HNA Group, STO Express, SF Airlines, and others, put out press releases showing their expansion plans across China and South-East Asia.
The Haikou-based HNA Group, despite recent conflicting and that sometimes seem to be somewhat unfounded press reports about financial shortcomings, continues to lead the field.
Almost 18 years of expansion
The HNA Group of companies stems originally from Hainan Airlines which was incepted by Mr Chen Feng back in 1993. It was in the year 2000 that he then founded what has become today’s HNA Group. A large conglomerate which has dealings in Aviation, Logistics, Tourism, Real Estate and many other areas. Today’s owners are the Hainan Traffic Administration with 70% and the remaining 30% are held by Jianyun Investments.
On the aviation side, HNA Group has affiliations with over 14 Chinese airlines, among them, Hainan Airlines, Suparna Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines. They also have holding in various carriers outside of China. MyCargo Airlines, a Boeing 747 freighter operator is one of those. It is just a few years ago that the HNA Group took a serious interest in air cargo or cargo logistics as a whole. It is today almost impossible to keep track on which new logistical acquisitions or affiliations have been added into the pot.
Air cargo is being treated seriously
When HNA took control of Swissport, one of the world’s largest ground handling set-ups, it became apparent that there was an interest in cargo handling and extended airport ground handling services. This was expanded mid last year to taking the majority share of Germany’s Hahn Airport, which is seen as the start of regular air cargo services into Europe. But - not just only Europe. HNA is putting quite an emphasis on air cargo handling in China for the future.
They, along with other Chinese aspirants, are investing heavily in logistics distribution centres for the expanding e-Commerce trade and which are being modeled on the very successful FedEx
set-up in Memphis, USA. HNA for example is putting their cards on this type of model in the central Chinese city of Xi’an, whereas others are concentrating on Wuhan in the Habei province. The HNA
logistics daughter company, Modern Logistics Group, has already initiated flights from Xi’an to Amsterdam and to Anchorage and Chicago. These can be seen as a test model for HNA in their aim of
establishing Xi’an as their “new Memphis.” Modern Logistics is also working hard on finding a suitable partner in order to set up HNA’s own cargo IT system. Talks are said to be continuing with
iTran Systems, a Shenzhen-based IT specialist company which can maybe join forces to plan and develop a common HNA IT logistics Platform.
Across the water in Europe, it’s Hahn Airport which will probably take the leading role as an air cargo centre. There is a lot to be done there in the form of investment for new handling systems and probably HNA would want to have their finger on the button there as far as decisions on cargo handling expansion goes.
Suparna Airlines now operates at least four weekly cargo flights into Hahn and the aim is surely to increase these into a daily operation. In order to be successful, HNA will have to relook the present Road Feeder services (RFS) on offer and enhance these to fit in with new customers’ wishes.
There’s still a lot to be accomplished before the HNA Group can be happy with their future East - West and West - East air cargo logistics platform.
John Mc Donagh