Saudia Cargo, a division of Saudia (SV, Jeddah), is to operate an air bridge between Asia and Europe via Saudi Arabia to cater to growing demand in e-commerce in Europe and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the company announced in a statement.

The cargo specialist will operate 5x weekly flights between Hong Kong Int'l and Liège in Belgium, routing via Riyadh, following the signing of an agreement with China’s Cainiao, the logistic’s arm of the Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant.

Cainiao Network, in a separate statement, said the Middle East was one of the top five overseas markets for the company, with shipment volumes growing 20% year-on-year. “With the launch of new flights, customers in the Middle East will be able to receive their online orders from China in as fast as 10 days. The popular products among Middle Eastern customers are electronic goods, apparel, and household products,” it said.

Middle Eastern airlines posted a 6% rise in international cargo volumes in January 2021 versus 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Cargo to Asia and North American routes, which grew 15.1% and 13.9% respectively, contributed the most to this growth, IATA said.

Saudia Cargo's Chief Executive Officer, Omar Hariri, said the partnership was in line with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goal to transform the Kingdom into a global logistical hub. “Other promising partnerships will be coming up in the near future to reinforce logistic operations of Alibaba in both continents,” he added.

He said Saudia Cargo had increased its cargo flights to many key destinations in Africa, Europe, Asia, and the US since the start of the pandemic.

Saudia currently operates seven cargo aircraft including four B777-200Fs, one B747-400(FSCD) wet-leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic (CC, Reykjavik Keflavik), and two B747-400(BDSF)s from the same ACMI operator, the ch-aviation fleets advanced module reveals.