Shenzhen, China-based SF Airlines which operates a large fleet of B737 freighters on Chinese domestic and Asian regional routes, among others in Vietnam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan, has taken delivery of the first of two B747 freighters. Both aircraft formerly belonged to the long defunct Chinese cargo operator Jade Cargo.
Are long haul operations in the planning?
The aircraft, a Boeing 747-400 ERF has been parked for some years and needed to undergo an extensive heavy maintenance before it was declared as being airworthy. The carrier obtained the two Jade B747s in 2017 in an auction which was arranged by Alibaba and it is said that they paid just over US$48 million for both aircraft. On top of this amount comes the costs for the heavy maintenance for both B-400s.
SF Airlines operates on behalf of their parent company, SF Express. Currently, it is not known whether or when SF Airlines will be able to put the second ex-Jade Cargo aircraft into service.
The carrier has gradually built up their cargo fleet and apart from the B747F now operates a fleet of around 55 B737, B757 and B767 freighters. It is so far not clear whether the acquisition of the B747F is aimed at SF Express expanding operations outside of Asia, but Hong Kong-based market experts are expecting this.
Regional routes expanding
SF Airlines, which is officially listed as Shung Feng Airlines, began operations on a small scale.
Founded in 2009, the airline started with one B757F whose maiden flight was to carry relief equipment for earthquake victims into Yushu City in China’s Qinghai province. A second B757F followed thereafter, and the first B737-300 freighter came on line in 2011. They also had a deal with Boeing to buy B2F converted B767 aircraft, of which they now operate six of the type. The B737 and B757 fleet were mainly used on Chinese domestic routes, whereas the larger B767Fs have been placed on inner-Asian regional sectors.
SF Airlines has placed a large order with Boeing for an undisclosed number of Boeing converted B737-800 aircraft which have a far more attractive payload and will eventually replace the older B737-300 freighters.
What makes sense for SF Airlines by operating two B747-400 freighters which can carry over 110 tons of freight.
Long haul is definitely a must for such types, but in which direction? Trans-Pacific or Europe, and on behalf of who? SF express is also expanding fast in the e-commerce sector and have so far not set up shops in Europe or the USA.
Only time will tell.
John Mc Donagh