‘Air Silk Road’ between Abu Dhabi and China’s Henan province

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Etihad Airways and Henan Province Airport Group, parent company of the Zhengzhou Xinzheng Airport — a major domestic aviation hub and the gateway to central China — have signed a preliminary agreement to boost air cargo ties.

The pact includes plans for Etihad Airways to operate regular cargo services between Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) and Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport (CGO) to create an air Silk Road between Henan province and Abu Dhabi, the airline said in a statement on Monday.

“Etihad is very excited to see the potential to further expand its cargo footprint in China, and to create the ‘Air Silk Road’ between the emirate and central China together with Henan Province Airport Group,” Martin Drew, senior vice president of sales and cargo at Etihad Airways, said.

“This will greatly improve the diversification of product sales and cargo distribution channels in this region and strengthen economic and trade links between the UAE and China, and beyond.”

The move comes amid booming global demand for air freight after the Covid-19 pandemic grounded the large, wide-body passenger aircraft used for carrying cargo.

Global demand, measured in cargo tonne-kilometres, was up 9.4 per cent in October, compared to the same month in 2019, the latest figures from International Air Transport Association show.

Etihad Airways’ cargo revenue jumped 56 per cent annually in the first half of 2021 to $800 million as it carried 365.5 tonnes of freight, an increase of 44 per cent from the same period a year ago, partially helping the airline to halve its losses for the period.

Since the start of the pandemic, Etihad Cargo has operated 1,042 flights out of Shanghai and Beijing, carrying more than 65,000 tonnes on its Boeing 777 freighters and passenger freighters, Mr Drew said. Half of the flights carried medical supplies to support the global fight against Covid-19 and equip frontline medical professionals.

Etihad Cargo has restored 90 per cent of its destinations compared with the same period in 2019, while its capacity has increased by 20 per cent.

The partnership will help the two parties “to explore various opportunities under the ‘Air Silk Road’ aviation initiative inspired by the China-proposed ‘Belt and Road Initiative’”, Kang Xingzhen, chairman of Henan Airport Group, said.

The deal also covers the scope of co-operation between the two parties to build the CGO airport into an air freight hub in the region and to diversify product sales and cargo distribution channels at Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport.

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