Sichuan Airlines is preparing to launch dual-airport operations in Chengdu from both its current home base at Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) and the city’s new Tianfu International Airport (no IATA code yet), for which construction is slated for completion at the end of this year.
As part of this new dual-airport cargo strategy, Sichuan Airlines will conduct all its dedicated freight aircraft and international cargo operations at Tianfu Airport, while the continuing to operating its belly-hold and domestic freight activities at CTU. In support of this strategy, the carrier is also expanding its facilities at CTU and is constructing a “Tianfu Cargo Station” at Tianfu International.
Chengdu, a city located in China’s central Sichuan province, is one of China’s most recent city-cluster centers to receive massive attention and investment from the Chinese government for the development of its aviation and logistics industries. Chengdu’s existing airport, CTU, is currently congested, which has prompted the government to construct Tianfu International Airport with designed capacity for six runways and 2 million tonnes of cargo. The government is developing this dual-airport system in Chengdu with the intent of bolstering China’s access to European and Middle Eastern markets as part of its Belt and Road initiative, as well as facilitating sustainable growth of the local logistics industry.
As one of Chengdu’s major carriers, Sichuan Airlines is expanding their cargo facilities at CTU to cover a total area of 146,667 square meters, which will have capacity for 250,000 tonnes of cargo per annum. The facilities will be separated into domestic, international and transshipment areas, and will also include designated temperature-controlled areas for live pets and animals. There will also be a cold storage facility for perishable and biopharmaceutical goods. Sichuan Airlines’ CTU expanded facilities are expected to become operational in October 2019.
At Chengdu Tianfu, Sichuan Airlines is developing a 65,000 square–meter Tianfu Cargo Station with the ability to process 370,000 tonnes of cargo annually. The carrier’s facilities will also have multimodal access to a new high-speed railway that is currently under construction by the Chinese government. The cargo station is slated to enter operations once the airport opens.
On this point, the carrier said it plans to develop a network optimizing its bellyhold capacity in passenger aircraft by linking them from CTU to major domestic hubs in China, including Beijing (PEK), Shanghai (SHA), Guangzhou (CAN) and Shenzhen (SZX). Meanwhile, Sichuan Airlines intends for its facilities at Chengdu Tianfu to increase the carrier’s overall volumes of international cargo.
Sichuan Airlines also told Air Cargo Airports that it is currently in discussions with Chengdu airport customs authorities to develop a platform for large-scale customs clearance in order to increase efficiency of operations and movement of cargo through CTU and Chengdu Tianfu. Details regarding these plans have yet to be determined.
In 2019, Sichuan Airlines said it will introduce three A330-200 freighter aircraft into its fleet, which will operate routes between Europe and Asia. There is some question as to whether the A330 freighters are the best option for maximizing Sichuan Airlines’ operational payload, as reported by our sister site, Cargo Facts. Still, the carrier’s expansion of its fleet and facility construction projects demonstrates that the carrier is eager to access new markets and grow its cargo volumes.