China Southern Airlines has become the first passenger airline in Asia to enter the door-to-door parcel delivery service market, challenging the dominance of FedEx and UPS. Only one airline in the world, a United States-based carrier, has attempted to offer the service. It was eventually forced out of the market by the dedicated express couriers. China Southern - the mainland's biggest airline - said it began experimental services in April and this week officially launched its time-definite, door-to-door cargo delivery service on nine routes from its hub in Guangzhou. Customers can place orders online and China Southern said it would compensate for any cargo that was delayed, damaged or lost. 'The response has been very strong since we started offering this service in April,' spokesman Li Detang said. The airline has promised to deliver parcels or containers from Guangzhou to any location in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Jinan, Wuhan, Kunming, Guiyang and Xiamen, within two to four hours after the flight lands. It will expand the service to Xian, Urumqi, Nanjing, Shenyang, Zhengzhou and Dalian this year and eventually to other mainland cities. China Southern also indicated it would tap cargo from around the region and promised to deliver it to any location in cities within its domestic network within five to eight hours of landing. Mr Li said the service might be extended eventually to international routes. China Southern launched its first dedicated transpacific cargo service in April, leasing a Boeing 747 freighter to serve the Shenzhen and Chicago route. In time, this may also become a door-to-door service, Mr Li said. He believed that within the mainland, China Southern enjoyed a strong advantage over FedEx, DHL and UPS, given the reach of its network. 'We operate 280 routes within China. That's the biggest network of any carrier,' Mr Li said. Analysts were surprised by the move but said the barriers to entry were not high in the mainland's nascent air cargo market. 'If you acquire a freight forwarder and successfully integrate it, then you're in business,' an airline analyst with a US brokerage said. However, analysts believed it would take a long time before China Southern could offer a strong mainland-based international service to rival FedEx and DHL. 'It would take them 10 years at least to acquire all the route rights,' Jim Eckes, managing director of Indoswiss Aviation said. China Southern operates a fleet of 102 aircraft on 336 routes worldwide.