The name of this airport should be well remembered by all those who have to do with air freight, either professionally or privately. Opened exactly one year ago (CFG reported), Ezhou Huahu Airport (IATA code EHU) handles just a few thousand tons of air freight per month. But by 2025, this figure is expected to rise to 2.45 million tons per year. The plan shall be accomplished through aggressive route expansion by SF Airlines (O3).
Role models for the development of the new Chinese cargo airport are super hubs such as Leipzig/Halle, Louisville, and Memphis, where the integrators DHL, UPS, and FedEx have their bases. It was only really when e-commerce took off that their rapid rise to super hubs began.
One of the new routes listed on O3’s schedule since last week, is a roundtrip to Abu Dhabi in the UAE. The weekly flight will be operated by one of the three Boeing 747 freighters belonging to the Shenzhen-based cargo carrier’s 84-strong aircraft fleet. The O3 management anticipates an average load of 200 tons on this sector. It said that e-commerce and express shipments will dominate, but expectations are that general cargo will also play a major role. The flight will provide efficient and reliable air logistics between China and the UAE, the carrier emphasizes in a statement.
Prior to kicking off the new route, SF Airlines and Etihad Airways had jointly launched freighter flights between Wuhan and Abu Dhabi, in a move to boost air logistics between the capital of central China’s landlocked Hubei Province, and the capital of the UAE, targeting surrounding markets in Middle East as well.
Chinese media reported Ezhou Airport to be “the world’s fourth and Asia’s first professional cargo airport”, instead of using the usual term: ‘cargo hub’.
First corporate and private investment in a Chinese airport
Having a base airport is a prerequisite for air cargo giants. Besides the convenience of playing a ‘home game’, the most significant advantage is its hub and spoke function enabling the fast sorting of shipments for their transfer and onward transportation.
SF Airlines’ parent, SF Express was incepted in 1993 and decided, in 2009, to establish SF Airlines as subsidiary, operating its own fleet. Its first aircraft were Boeing 757-200 freighters, provided by China Southern, who operated them for two decades.
Even now, the B757-200F is still the dominant aircraft type. In order to ensure smooth operations, SF Express has opted to invest heavily in Ezhou Huahu Airport. Recognizing that ground operations determine the product quality, USD 370 million were contributed to the construction of the airport, while the lion’s share of USD 1.7 billion was used to build a local sorting and distribution center.
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