Air Macau eyes Taipei-Yangtze delta freighter linkage

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 June, 2003, 12:00am

The frequency of the proposed service will be four to seven times a week

Air Macau by the end of the year will launch a freighter service linking the booming Yangtze River Delta manufacturing sector with Taipei via its home base in the former Portuguese colony.

The carrier is eyeing either Shanghai (Pudong), Nanjing or Hangzhou for new scheduled services and is holding discussions with forwarders and their clients to assess the capacity and frequency needed.

'We are still talking to our clients. Unlike Dragonair, which has a dedicated fleet, we lease aircraft and we have the flexibility to adjust the capacity depending on the demand,' a company executive said.

The carrier flies 12 weekly freighter services from Shenzhen to Taipei via Macau with B727 freighter equipment, but has not fully utilised its 800-tonne-a-week round-trip quota so it is keen to bump up sales revenue in the sector.

It is now moving about 240 tonnes of cargo from Macau to Taiwan every week.

'We are very upbeat on the cargo market. Cargo business is the silver lining of the industry,' the executive said.

Macau, an alternative to Hong Kong, is a stopover point for cross-strait air transport until direct links between Taiwan and the mainland are re-established. Taiwan-related business contributes more than 70 per cent of Air Macau's revenue.

Another carrier keen to take a bigger slice of the market is Taiwan's TransAsia Airways, which will resume direct freighter services between Macau and Taipei by the end of this month.

'We will fly a B747-200F, with capacity of 100 tonnes, twice a week starting from the end of this month,' a spokeswoman for TransAsia said.

Bound by the bilateral air service agreement signed in July, air cargo volume between Macau and Taiwan is limited to 400 tonnes a week each way, a volume split between TransAsia and Eva Air on the Taiwan side.

'We are now using the belly-cargo capacity of passenger aircraft to Macau. But the frequency was reduced to less than three services a day because of the Sars outbreak,' she said.

The new service will boost TransAsia's one-way capacity to about 200 tonnes a week.

The Air Macau executive said the carrier was keen to diversify the source and destination of its cargo. 'Air Macau depends a lot on Taiwan business for revenue. There are two business concentrations in China, one is the Pearl River Delta and the other is the Yangtze River Delta,' he said.

'The service to eastern China would have been in place now if there was no Sars. But now the plan is to launch in the fourth quarter.'

The frequency of the proposed new service will be four to seven times a week, depending on the size of the aircraft it chooses.

Air Macau was in discussions with Taiwanese airlines to increase the overall air-cargo quota on the route but neither side had yet requested a new round of bilateral discussions with the authorities, he said.

'We have not made the final decision on the frequency and the size of aircraft. We are not sure whether we need another round of negotiations. We still haven't used the 160 tonnes we have left.'

An Eva Air spokesman said the carrier was interested in boosting the capacity for cargo services between Taiwan and Macau. The airline is flying three MD-11Fs a week.

'We have fully utilised our portion of the quota. We are using some of TransAsia's share as we adjust our frequencies,' he said.

'We keep close contact with Air Macau and we are interested in negotiating an expansion of the bilateral agreement.'