Last week, Ethiopian Airlines Group, the Chongqing Municipal People’s Government Port and Logistics Office and Chongqing Airport Group signed a freight route cooperation agreement. The new routes established by this agreement will expand on China’s already growing “Belt and Road” initiative, while also supporting Ethiopian’s efforts to grow its cargo operations.
The new agreement establishes three regular freight routes linking Chongqing (CKG) and Addis Ababa (ADD) – CKG-ADD, CKG-New Delhi (DEL)-ADD and CKG-Dubai (DXB)-ADD. Upon arriving at ADD, the three routes will continue to Brazil and Chile, although details regarding these flights are yet to be determined.
The new CKG-ADD route will be flown twice weekly, with the potential for more flights or adjusted routes to be added, according to future demand. ADD-based Ethiopian Airlines will carry out the flights for these routes with 777-200Fs, with a maximum cargo capacity of 100 tonnes; the carrier also recently took redelivery of its first 737-800SF, as reported by our sister site, Cargo Facts.
Return flights to China from South America and Africa are expected to carry perishable products, such as agricultural produce and seafood, for which Chongqing Airport Group and Chongqing Port and Logistics Office guaranteed to provide “one-hour customs clearance,” and multimodal access to the rest of China via truck and air networks.
According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), these new routes will be the longest regular freighter flights connecting Asia, Africa and South America, which it sees as the three continents with the most potential for development.
CKG, located in southwestern China adjacent to Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou, Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces, serves as a node of China’s Belt and Road initiative linking the country to its western neighbors. The airport currently hosts several international cargo carriers – including AirBridgeCargo Airlines, Air China Cargo, Cathy Pacific, China Airlines, China Southern, Etihad Cargo, EVA Air, Lufthansa Cargo, Qantas Freight and Suparna Airlines Cargo – and had 14 international, dedicated freighter routes to and from the airport in 2018.
CKG is actively working to attract new carriers to its airport and has frequent discussions with African countries. Local government in Chongqing is supporting the airport’s efforts to grow its cargo business with the construction of an international logistics hub and expanded railway networks, but did not yet provide further details regarding these plans.
With the development of other airports in China’s central and western provinces to support Belt and Road, one must wonder why the new route to ADD is linked to CKG rather than Chengdu (CTU) in Chongqing’s neighboring Sichuan province, as Chengdu City will soon have a major boost in available capacity upon completion of the construction of the city’s massive second airport. No logistical or financial reasons have been given to address the decision, but the new route establishment and operation provides Ethiopian Airlines an advantage over its own growing local competition in accessing the Chinese market.
Ethiopian Minister of Finance Ahmed Sid, who attended the signing of the agreement, said he hopes that, with the support of the Chinese government, Ethiopian Airlines will be able to open more flights to China and Africa, further facilitating the cooperation and development of China-Africa bilateral trade.
In addition to establishing these new routes to CKG, Ethiopian Airlines has also recently launched the first African weekly freighter service to Miami (MIA) and is in the process of building a new logistics services facility as part of a joint venture with DHL Global Forwarding.