The Silk Road takes to the air


It was one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China and the starting point of the famous Silk Road to the West. Today Xi’an is evolving into northwest China’s capital of air cargo. 

On June 14th 2013, Finnair became the first European carrier to launch a direct route between Europe and Xi’an, an ancient city embracing a fierce spirit of renewal.  Best known to westerners as home of the renowned Terracotta Army guarding the spirit of the first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, the capital of Shaanxi Province has a rich cultural history and a bright future as a rising hub of high-tech industry.
And where there is industry, there is cargo. Building on its legacy as the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, Xi’an (then Chang’an) is re-emerging as one of China’s logistical nerve centres. In 2012 Xianyang International Airport, the largest airport in northwest China, was China’s 13th busiest air cargo hub – a ranking set to rise thanks to generous foreign investment in local industry by major global companies. 

High-tech incubator

Once regarded as one of inland China’s economic backwaters, this thriving city of 8.5 million is undergoing a high-tech renaissance, with enthusiastic consumer spending contributing to its economic turnaround.
With wages and land prices rising sharply in China’s coastal cities, many companies are tapping into the cheaper labour and lower costs offered by “less-developed” Xi’an. 
Hosting some of northwest China’s best universities, Xi’an is anything but a city of sweatshops, however. A bountiful supply of well-educated human resources has led to the city’s prominence in fields such as gaming, software development, aerospace technology and high-tech R&D. 

Ancient route revisited

Finnair Cargo operates three direct flights a week with a combined weekly capacity of 55-60 tonnes. The main goods shipped via Xi’an will be electronics, automotive products, solar technology, high-tech goods, spare parts and a variety of industrial products.
“We will coordinate operations in Xi’an together with our GSA partner, JPK.  Day-to-day operations will of course be a team effort with our terminal handling partner, CWAG, with regional support from our offices in Chongqing and Shanghai,” says Finnair Cargo Sales Director Tomi Asikainen
“We have a young and dynamic team. We’ll work very hard to overcome any challenges and speed up development of the Xi’an station. We hope to achieve remarkable results through a strong team effort,” says Shanghai-based Customer Service Supervisor Fiona Zhuang
In some respects Xi’an is indeed a challenging market, as local carriers enjoy a strong, established role, though it is yet a developing market for global forwarders. Asikainen is nevertheless confident that it will become a busy and lucrative destination for Finnair Cargo.
“Initially it will be a seasonal operation, but with strong focus to have the route operating year-round as soon as possible,” he says.
“We are proud to be the first European airline to offer our clients a direct, fast and efficient cargo route via the new northern Silk Route between Xi’an and Europe.”
Text by Silja Kudel

Published June 13, 2013

Category: Market updates