Parcel delivery firm Venipak Group has launched a B737-800 freighter service between Hong Kong and Riga to meet soaring demand and supply chain disruption in the Baltic region.
The service, which includes a stop in Ulan Ude for refueling, is operated by Atran Airlines. Initially the service will fly once per week but from mid-October the parcel firm plans to double the frequency. The first flight took place on September 18.
The company also hopes to add freighter services between China and the US, and Hong Kong and the US west coast in the future.
The B737-800 is typically used for regional flights given its capacity of around 24 tonnes, but Venipak said supply chain disruption and rising volumes would drive demand for the service.
Justas Sabliskas, chief executive at Venipak Group, said: “We’re seeing a surge in demand in the Baltic region as well as Eastern Europe for more efficient shipment solutions that would connect Asia, Europe, and North America.
“The existing options at the moment just do not work. Many businesses suffer from the irregular and disrupted delivery times, and direct long-distance shipping flights are a rarity for the region. All of this adds to the heightened strain.”
The company pointed out that backlogs at shipping ports, doubled with local lockdown measures, have forced businesses to shift their shipments from ocean transport to international airfreight transport.
“This overload brings forward issues like limited cargo space on flights and fixed flight schedules that constrain efficient cargo deliveries worldwide,” the company said.
Venipak said the service would cut flight times from Hong Kong to Baltic region to two working days. Meanwhile, by offering freighter capacity as an alternative to bellyhold, a wider variety of cargo can be shipped.
“The Boeing 737-800 BCF aircraft capacity allows shipping a wider variety of cargo, like dangerous (DGR), heavy, or with non-standard dimensions,” the company said. “Regular weekly flight schedules and fixed prices during the high season allow easier planning of budget, operations, production, and sales for the businesses.”
The company said that interest in the flights had been “massive”, with the flights selling out in two days.
“Goods from the Baltics and Poland like car parts and cosmetics are among the first cargo delivered from Riga to Hong Kong,” it added.
Artūrs Saveļjevs, member of the board of Riga International Airport, added: “We are pleased that Venipak has chosen Riga International Airport as its home for air cargo services, and we can also mark Hong Kong on our direct cargo flight destination map.
“This confirms that the ongoing work to develop and strengthen the Airport’s cargo segment is a step in the right direction and that our customers appreciate the potential of Riga Airport as a Baltic air hub, including in the air cargo sector. Riga Airport provides both the necessary solutions and growth opportunities for our customers’ business.”