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UK's East Midlands airport reaches out to Chinese side to start direct cargo flights

THE UK's East Midlands Airport (EMA) has revealed that preliminary talks are ongoing with counterparts at Chongqing Jiangbei international airport in southwest China and Sichuan province officials aimed at commencing direct cargo flights between the two airports

09 December 2019 - 19:00

THE UK's East Midlands Airport (EMA) has revealed that preliminary talks are ongoing with counterparts at Chongqing Jiangbei international airport in southwest China and Sichuan province officials aimed at commencing direct cargo flights between the two airports.

EMA has not yet pitched carriers to start the China service, spokesman Ioan Reed-Aspley said.



The airport handles 368,000 tonnes of freight yearly valued at GBP11 billion (US$14.5 billion), of which involves movements between non-European countries. The airport seeks to triple freight volume to one million tonnes annually within the next 10 to 20 years. Chongqing airport has capacity for 1.1 million tonnes of cargo, reported American Shipper.



EMA is expanding cargo capacity, adding apron space for freighter aircraft as it prepares for raise volumes driven by e-commerce. EMA officials also cite the airport's location in Leicestershire, adjacent to major road networks, as an advantage for getting goods in - and out - of the UK and European markets.



DHL, UPS, FedEx/TNT and UK Royal Mail have operations at the airport. In 2020, further cargo growth at EMA is expected when UPS opens a new GBP114 million facility that will double the integrator's capacity. Online retail giant Amazon, which has a fulfilment centre near EMA, operates several daily flights. Cargo carriers ASL Airlines, Cargolux, Etihad Cargo and Qatar Air Cargo operate into the airport.



EMA recorded its highest-ever monthly cargo volume in October, despite a downturn in the overall airfreight market this year. Approximately 35,000 tonnes passed through the airport, eclipsing the previous record set in November 2018, when cargo operators handled slightly over 34,000 tonnes.



Sichuan is one of the largest Chinese provinces, with a population of 81 million people, 15 million more than the whole of the UK. It is an economic corridor that connects the hinterland of southwestern China to south and central Asia. Sichuan Province has the largest consumer market in western China, providing export opportunities for UK and European shippers.



Airport officials point to the success of Manchester Airport, some 80 miles from EMA, as an indicator of potential cargo throughput that could emanate from a dedicated China service. Manchester is the third-busiest airport in the U.K., after Heathrow and London Gatwick. EMA and Manchester Airport share the same owner in Manchester Airport Holdings, the UK's largest airport owner.



In the two years following the launch of service between Manchester and Beijing, the value of exports on the route grew 41 per cent to GBP1.29 billion. The value of combined exports and imports from the northwest of England to China is now 7 per cent higher than it was before direct flights were launched from Manchester (2018 vs. 2015).



Manchester's cargo operation is small in comparison to EMA's operation. Manchester offers direct passenger flights to China but no dedicated freighter service. Exported goods from Manchester to China, which have been responsible for the largest year-on-year volume growth, include food and textiles.


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