Shanghai Airlines plans to add up to three freighters over the next three years, while looking to acquire more western-built regional jets. "We want to have our own freighters as soon as possible," says chief executive Zhou Chi.

The alternatives are to buy or lease the aircraft, or convert some of its older Boeing 757 passenger aircraft into freighters. If it opts to buy or lease freighters, it will choose between Airbus A300s or Boeing 747s, 767s and MD-11s, says Zhou.

"We have [cargo] flight rights from Shanghai to Bangkok and we will be applying for a cargo route from Shanghai to Osaka in Japan," he adds.

Shanghai Airlines has no dedicated freighters of its own but wet leases a 747-200F from MK Airlines for a thrice-weekly service between Shanghai and Macau. It has the option to take some 757s out of service because it has three new 757-200 passenger aircraft due for delivery in early 2004 and two the following year.

Zhou says Shanghai Airlines wants to add more foreign-made regional jets, even though it has the option to acquire five Chinese-built ARJ21s from 2008.

"By 2007-8 we may need five more regional aircraft and next year we will need at least two," he says. The company needs 70-seat aircraft, and is looking at the Bombardier CRJ700. Shanghai Airlines has three 50-seat CRJ200s.

Shanghai Airlines has taken options to buy 70- to 90-seat ARJ21s from 2008 from China's AVIC I, which is developing the aircraft. Zhou says the airline will have to make a final decision on the deal when the ARJ21 gains US Federal Aviation Administration and Civil Aviation Administration of China certification.

The carrier said recently that it had placed small deposits for five of the new aircraft type, which is scheduled for first delivery late in 2007.

Source: Flight International