A Chinese cargo airline is operating what might just be the least efficient cargo route in the world. As you’d expect, there’s a reason for the route, though.
SF Airlines’ Shenzhen to Hong Kong flight
SF Airlines is a Chinese cargo airline based in Shenzhen, operating a fleet of roughly 70 cargo jets, ranging from the Boeing 737 to the Boeing 747 (by the way, the airline has a pretty cool livery, eh?).
The airline operates a variety of short and long haul cargo routes. What’s noteworthy is that the airline has just launched its shortest route yet, between Shenzhen (SZX) and Hong Kong (HKG). The airports are just 24 miles apart, and historically it has been possible to take a train between the two cities in just 15 minutes.
On March 19, 2022, SF Airlines launched a new cargo flight between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The flight times here are kind of unbelievable.
For example, on March 19, flight O37291 operated from Shenzhen to Hong Kong. Even though the flight should cover a distance of just 24 miles, the flight took 36 minutes, climbed all the way up to 12,000 feet, and flew 170 miles, over 700% of the direct distance between the two airports.
The flight in the other direction, O37292, operated from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, shortly thereafter. This flight took “only” 20 minutes, “only” climbed up to 8,000 feet, and “only” flew an actual distance of 93 miles.
Why is this flight necessary?
It goes without saying that operating a 36 minute Boeing 767 flight to move some cargo to a destination 24 miles away is… not efficient. So what’s the purpose of this flight?
- In recent weeks, Hong Kong has seen a massive coronavirus outbreak, causing mainland China to largely cut off links to Hong Kong; there have been limited train services, etc.
- Prior to this new flight, SF Airlines had stopped cargo shipments to Hong Kong due to the outbreak; for that matter, there had been a lot of issues with the logistics of shipping stuff to Hong Kong
- While flying cargo to Hong Kong seems inefficient, presumably some of this cargo isn’t actually staying in Hong Kong, but rather is connecting onto other flights from Hong Kong Airport
No matter how you slice it, this is highly inefficient. However, in the context of China’s approach toward coronavirus, as well as mainland China largely closing off shipments to Hong Kong, this isn’t that surprising.
This reminds me a bit of FedEx’s 18-mile flight that operated during the pandemic between San Diego and Tijuana, intended to make shipments between the United States and Mexico easier.
Chinese cargo carrier SF Airlines has launched a new service between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, using a Boeing 767. This is (by far) the carrier’s shortest route. While the flight covers a direct distance of only 24 miles, in reality the flight can take 35+ minutes, based on the traffic patterns airlines have to fly in congested airspace.
This has to take the cake for one of the least efficient cargo routes out there. Though I suppose at the moment it might be a necessary evil.
What do you make of SF Airlines’ Shenzhen to Hong Kong route?
(Tip of the hat to @FATIIIAviation)