Gulf Air is to introduce two flights a week to Milan, starting on Monday. Currently, Rome shares three flights a week with Frankfurt. With Milan coming on line, the airline will now operate three independent flights a week to Rome, two of which will be extended to Milan. Gulf Air serves Paris (Charles De Gaulle airport) daily, London (Heathrow) three to four flights a day, and Germany (Frankfurt) five flights a week. The German route will go on to a daily schedule in July. Gulf Air manager of cargo marketing and sales, Girma Wake, told the South China Morning Post from Bahrain that the addition of three long-haul flights to Italy and other increases in frequencies to Germany and Britain would boost the airline's cargo throughput from Hong Kong. 'Overall increases in frequency planned for the summer 2000 schedule will give Gulf Air 3,000 tonnes of additional cargo capacity in the second half of the year,' he said, adding that some of the flights would enable its sales team to promote convenient connections from Hong Kong to destinations in the Gulf, Middle East, Africa and Europe. Analysts said there was strong Asian buying in the European markets early this year, a trend which was likely to continue. A weaker euro is also boosting exports from Europe to Asia. However, the trend is that more companies are turning to logistics services which were advocating just-in-time and zero inventories to reduce costs and improve efficiency and productivity. Analysts said the fast-growing European distribution market was fuelling the use of more airfreight for quicker delivery to the market. Mr Wake said services were being expanded to meet increasing demand. Cargo, carried on Airbus A340 passenger aircraft, averaged 16 to 17 tonnes per flight, he said. On some sectors, Gulf Air occasionally carried up to 30 tonnes of dense perishable cargo on A340s. Gulf Air's existing fleet of 13 A320s and four A330-200s will be increased by two of each model by the middle of the year. The delivery of the two A330s in May/June will complete the airline's order of A330s. Its existing fleet of 10 B767-300s will be reduced to eight this year and the carrier will maintain its five A340-312 aircraft. The fleet has an average age of less thanfour years, a plus factor which many customers look for when choosing an airline to carry their cargo or to meet their individual needs. More planes are expected to be ordered in the near future. Last year, the airline handled 150,000 tonnes of air cargo globally, representing an 11 per cent rise compared with 1998 throughput. Hong Kong's cargo throughput alone increased by 30 per cent last year versus 1998 statistics, riding on the back of strong demand from the European Union. Mr Wake said Hong Kong exports handled by the airline included finished electronic products and textiles as well as some personal effects, while Asian imports and re-exports comprised mainly industrial goods. The airline handles about 16- 17 tonnes of cargo from Hong Kong outbound and about seven to eight tonnes inbound. Gulf Air uses Hong Kong as a transit point to Japan and Taiwan and flies daily between the SAR and its four owner states in the Gulf - Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Qatar. Elsewhere, Mr Wake said the carrier was likely to get additional three flights per week out of Australia from current negotiations between the airline and relevant authorities. At present, it has three flights to and from Australia. He said Asia accounted for the bulk of cargo for Gulf Air most of which was carried to European destinations. On the passenger side, Gulf Air carried five million passengers in 1998.