A look at China’s brand new Ezhou Huahu Airport

On the morning of July 17, an SF Airlines 767-300 freighter took off from Ezhou Huahu Airport (EHU) and headed for Shenzhen Baoan Airport (SZX) with SF Express freight on board. This marks the official entry into service of the new Ezhou airport.

“Professional Cargo Airport”

Chinese media reported that Ezhou Airport was “the fourth professional cargo airport in the world and the first professional cargo airport in Asia”, instead of the usually used term “cargo hub”.

It was also announced at the opening ceremony that Ezhou Huahu Airport will launch about ten international and 50 domestic cargo routes, and reach a cargo handling capacity of 2.45 million tons by 2025.

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The aerial view of Ezhou Huahu Airport, with the famous Yangtze River, was visible in the distance. Photo: Ezhou Huahu Airport

However, the planned cargo handling capacity is lower than the figures for Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG), Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport (ANC) and from Incheon International Airport (ICN) last year. So why does the media call it the first in Asia and the fourth in the world?

The key word is “professional”. Cargo will be the core business of Ezhou Huahu Airport and, just as importantly, it will be the base of an air cargo giant, in this case SF Express.

Following this idea, the other three “professional cargo airports” in the world, according to Chinese media, would be Memphis International Airport (MEM) for FedEx, Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) for UPS and the airport from Leipzig/Halle (LEG) for DHL.

FedEx’s cargo fleet at its cargo base, Memphis International Airport. Photo: single flight

Having a base airport is a prerequisite for air cargo giants. Besides the convenience of playing a “home game”, the most important advantage of having a base airport is its various supporting facilities, making it the logistics heart of the air cargo giants.

The ambition of SF Airlines

SF Express was founded in 1993. After more than a decade of development, it decided to create its own fleet, SF Airlines, in 2009. The first cargo aircraft in its fleet is a Boeing 757-200 freighter, which previously flew for China Southern for 20 years. years.

The Boeing 757-200 freighter is the dominant aircraft type in the SF Airlines fleet. Photo: SF Airlines

For the next five years, SF Express, which insisted on a directly managed organization, steadily lost market share as the Internet-based technique benefited other delivery companies, which applied to the organization of the franchise.

But in 2014, low-key SF Express decided to begin its selection for a freight hub site, and announced plans to go public with the necessary capital in February 2016.

History always repeats itself. It took FedEx seven years from starting its aviation business in 1971 to going public in 1978. Four decades later, SF Express also took seven years to go through the same process.

Two months after SF Express’s announcement, CAAC, China’s aviation regulator, approved the plan to build a cargo hub airport in Hubei province (at the time, the exact location of the airport). airport was not yet determined to be Ezhou).


In October 2016, SF Airlines ended its plan to introduce small cargo aircraft (payload less than 15 tons). From that time on, SF Airlines only included large freighters in its fleet.

SF Airlines now has an all-Boeing fleet of 87 cargo planes. Photo: SF Airlines

With capital raised from the equity market, SF Express invested 2.5 billion yuan (370 million U.S. dollars) in Ezhou Huahu Airport and another 11.5 billion yuan (1.7 billion U.S. dollars). Americans) in the cargo distribution center of the airport.

Ezhou Huahu Airport is the first airport in China in which private enterprises/capital are allowed to participate. SF Holding, parent company of SF Express, now owns a 46% stake in the airport.

To date, SF Airlines has an all-Boeing freighter fleet of 87 freighter aircraft. The Boeing 757-200 freighter 35 is still the dominant aircraft type.

What do you think of the future of this “Memphis of China”? Is the success of FedEx or UPS replicable in China? Please share your thoughts with us.

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