Chinese cargo start-up Northwest International Cargo Airlines has been approved by the country’s civil aviation authority to introduce three Boeing 737 freighters to its fleet.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) says in a 27 August statement that the narrowbodies will come from YTO Cargo Airlines, which has a fleet of seven 737-300s and five 757-200s, according to Cirium fleets data. Two of the 737-800s are on lease from GECAS, while YTO Cargo owns the rest of its fleet.

Cirium data indicates that YTO Cargo is the air cargo carrier arm of Chinese courier company YTO Express Group and launched scheduled services in September 2015. Senior executives from YTO Express, which according to a 27 August Reuters report may see Chinese tech giant Alibaba soon become its top shareholder, will run the new airline.

Northwest International Cargo is based at Xi’an Xianyang International Airport in Shaanxi province and it plans to fly domestic services, as well as to the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, and to Taiwan. It also plans “international air cargo and mail transportation services”.

The carrier is a joint venture between Shaanxi Provincial Communication Construction Group (50%), YTO Express (20%), China West Airport Group (10%) and Shaanxi Province Airport Aviation Industry Investment (20%).

It originally won CAAC approval to launch back in September 2018.

The CAAC said on 27 August: “The preparatory work has been basically completed, and it has applied for the issuance of a public air transport enterprise operating license. The Northwest Regional Administration of the CAAC has completed its preliminary review.”

The regulator adds that the airline has leased office space and signed an agreement with its home airport. It has also officially registered with ICAO.