Cleared for Take Off: Cargo Airline Backed by JD.com Founder Receives Regulatory Approval

cargo airline
(The new airline will be just the third major private cargo airline in China, in addition to the national carrier, China Postal Airlines, seen above. Image: Alan Wilson, Flickr)

China’s top regulatory body in charge of civil aviation gave the green light on Tuesday for the establishment of Jiangsu Jingdong Cargo Airlines, a new enterprise whose chief investor is led by founder of domestic e-commerce giant JD.com Richard Liu (刘强东 Liu Qiangdong).

The development will result in the addition of a third major private cargo airline to the Chinese logistics market, in addition to a fourth national carrier, China Postal Airlines, which began operations in 1997.

Providing 450 million yuan ($69.65 million) and 75% of the initial investment is Suqian Jingdong Zhenyue Enterprise Management Co., Ltd., a firm led directly by Liu. The remaining 150 million yuan has been contributed by Nantong Airport Group, an aviation management company established in 2005.

The new airline will be based at Xingdong International Airport in the city of Nantong, located in China’s eastern Jiangsu province. The airport is considered one of the key aviation hubs supporting the dense logistics networks spanning the greater Shanghai area.

Once operational, the enterprise will provide regular transport services for shipping goods across mainland China, as well as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The further addition of international services may also eventually be introduced.

According to the official announcement from the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the new airline will employ a fleet of Boeing 737-800s, also known as the “737 Next Generation” model.

Jiangsu Jingdong Cargo Airlines has so far recruited 10 pilots, seven dispatchers and nine maintenance personnel, the announcement also showed.

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Among the other domestic airlines, it will enter into competition with is the air transport division of Shenzhen-based SF Express (Group) Co., one of the leading logistics companies in China founded in 1993 by Wang Wei. The other major existing private cargo airline in the country is the Hangzhou-based YTO Airlines, which, in addition to its domestic operations, also operates a range of medium-haul international air shipping routes.