Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Maersk Air Cargo launches 1st US-China routes

The cargo airline subsidiary of A.P. Moller-Maersk, best known as a titan in ocean shipping and logistics, has commenced its first routes connecting the U.S. and China.

Maersk Air Cargo announced Tuesday that it has inaugurated twice-weekly freighter service between Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) in South Carolina and Shenyang Taoxian International Airport, as well as between Chicago Rockford International Airport and Hangzhou. 

Both routes will be flown by Miami-based Amerijet under contract to Maersk (DXE: MAERB) using Boeing 767 medium widebody cargo jets. Flight frequency for the routes will increase to three times per week in May. Maersk bought the new freighters from Boeing and placed them with Amerijet.

FreightWaves previously reported that Maersk planned to establish air cargo service between GSP and Shenyang. Maersk Air Cargo expanded its own airline operations into the U.S. last fall with the launch of scheduled service between Greenville-Spartanburg and Seoul, South Korea.

The new services come during a substantial downturn in the air cargo market from record highs of 2021 as the global economy slows under pressure from inflation, inventory levels remain high and retail sales growth normalizes to pre-pandemic levels. But Maersk is setting up its network for long-term business growth and is aggressively moving to reposition itself as a one-stop-shop logistics integrator that can provide guaranteed ocean and air capacity, as well as customized supply chain services, for its top customers. A major part of that strategy is utilizing its cargo airline to support internal customers for the first time.

Maersk’s Star Airlines quietly operated for years in Europe as a contractor for UPS and other express delivery companies. Maersk last year acquired airfreight forwarding specialist Senator International, which already leased space at GSP and Chicago Rockford airports to handle shipments for its regular chartered freighters. In October, the airline opened a freight station near Chicago O’Hare airport to facilitate quicker shipment flows for customers. The warehouse will also serve as a staging point for Maersk’s Rockford hub, about an hour’s drive west of O’Hare.

Once Maersk received its own aircraft operating authority from U.S. regulators, it began expanding its footprint into North America and operating its own aircraft from those two hubs.

Last month, Maersk Air Cargo debuted a new service between its global hub in Bilund, Denmark, and Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport.  

“We want to ensure that our customers have the visibility, reliability, and resilience in their supply chains. Air freight continues to be an important asset in our customers’ end-to-end logistics needs,” said Michel Pozas Lucic, global head of air for Maersk, in the announcement.

Maersk Air Cargo flew a handful of test flights to Shenyang and Hangzhou before starting regular service. The Chicago-Hangzhou operation commenced on Thursday, according to tracking site Flightradar24. Both new services include stops in Seoul.

Maersk is taking a notable approach by using secondary airports in both the U.S. and China for its operations, a tactic more cargo airlines and logistics providers are adopting to avoid congestion delays and higher costs at major international gateways for passenger traffic.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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