Increasing trade between Hong Kong and Europe has prompted KLM Cargo to boost its capacity by 90 per cent with two newly purchased B747-400 extended range freighters.
The Dutch airline began operating its first weekly Hong Kong to Amsterdam service last Sunday after the first aircraft was delivered.
The frequency of the service will soon be lifted to twice a week.
'We will increase our capacity by 90 per cent after we begin two freighter services a week from mid-May,' said KLM Cargo's east Asia sales director Corneel Koster. 'We hope business will increase by 90 per cent as well.'
The airline will receive its second freighter next month and a third in March next year, when the service will be increased to thrice a week.
Mr Koster said KLM Cargo had seen continuous growth in demand for exports from Hong Kong to Europe.
KLM's daily combi service from Hong Kong to Amsterdam, which can carry 35 to 40 tonnes of cargo a time, had been full year-round, he said.
A combi is an airliner configured to hold more cargo than a normal passenger aircraft.
'The Hong Kong to Europe market is growing consistently as the Pearl River Delta becomes the manufacturing base of the world. We expect air cargo volume from Hong Kong to Europe to grow 20 per cent every year,' said Mr Koster. 'The medium- to long-term prospects remain very promising, otherwise we would not have introduced this new freighter service.'
According to the Hongkong Air Cargo Terminals, which accounts for 82 per cent of total air cargo at Chek Lap Kok, exports to Europe rose a comparative 25.5 per cent to 73,601 tonnes in the first quarter of this year.
KLM Cargo sees Shanghai as another hot spot for business and Mr Koster expects exports from the city to Europe to grow 30 per cent a year.
He said KLM was using all its landing rights in Shanghai but hoped to get more in the next round of air service bilateral negotiations.
KLM Cargo flies five weekly B747-400 combis to Shanghai, with a combined cargo capacity of 200 tonnes.