04.10.2016 12:23

Guangzhou: Santa’s secret

Time flies. Here we are in the fourth quarter of 2016 and Finnair is already ramping up its international cargo operations to service the holiday peak season. 

There are many legends of Father Christmas, but every Finnish parent knows that Santa Claus lives in Finnish Lapland.  And although he’s out and about mostly in winter, a little elf told me that Santa has been rushed off his feet the past few months, too. He’s been spotted stocking up on toys, socks and (if you’re lucky) hi-tech gadgets in anticipation of delivering them under all those Christmas trees around the world.

This year, Finnair Cargo plays a larger than usual role in ensuring those goodies are distributed across the globe, partly in thanks to our summer route between Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province in southern China, and Helsinki. A booming metropolis in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) region, Guangzhou, in fact, is the fourth largest export/cargo airport in China.

To offer faster shipments to and from the PRD, Finnair introduced a seasonal route on May 6. The service has flown four times a week since then, employing Airbus A330 aircraft, and will continue to do so until it hibernates for the winter on October 29.

I’m happy to say that the route performed rather well these past four months. 

The PRD is a region undergoing profound change as it switches from low-end manufacturing reliant on cheap labor to that of higher added-value products. Whereas it was once reported that as much as 80 percent of the world’s toys and games (and many synthetic Christmas trees and other festive paraphernalia) were made in the PRD, the region has been hit not only by China’s economic slowdown, but also by rising wages, increased rents and competition from Southeast Asian neighbors.

As a result, the PRD has developed a more diverse manufacturing base, reflected in the range of goods shipped by Finnair Cargo on that route. Products have ranged from everything in between high-tech and garments to electrical components and phone cases.

I’m also delighted to report that loads have typically hit 15 to 16 tons per flight (high for A330 aircraft), exceeding our initial expectations for that route. Local customers have been super supportive. Finnair Cargo’s local GSA, JPK Express China, has done a fabulous job under the watchful eye of Ms. Fiona Zhuang, Area Sales Manager.

Looking ahead, we expect the PRD to continue to develop, mostly through innovation. According to HSBC Bank, R&D spending is reportedly higher in Guangdong than in any other province in China (at 12.5bn USD compared to 4.5bn USD in Shanghai in 2014).  Finnair aims to serve the region's evolving needs with the return of the Guangzhou-Helsinki route in March 2017.  

Until then… if your children have any special requests for Santa, they should drop him a line: Mr. S. Claus, Main Post Office, Rovaniemi, Arctic Circle, FI-96930, Finland. He’ll make the necessary arrangements with Guangzhou.

As a father of three, I have the big man on my smartphone as a WeChat contact.