The new routes launched in the past several years have enriched the "Air Silk Road," whose role bulks even large during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as countries are struggling amid its economic fallout.
According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), China has maintained regular international passenger and cargo flights to 45 countries and regions during the pandemic. At present, China and the BRI countries and regions operate 1,068 cargo flights per week, 2.6 times more than before the pandemic.
Among the flights shuttling between China and Europe are those on the Zhengzhou-Luxembourg international freight route. It was launched in 2014 after Henan Civil Aviation Development and Investment Co., Ltd. acquired a 35-percent stake in the Luxembourg-based Cargolux Airlines International, which operates the biggest all-cargo airline in Europe.
This air freight service currently operates up to 23 flights per week connecting Europe, Asia and the United States, with Zhengzhou at its core.
Zhou Lihong, chairwoman of the China Chamber of Commerce to the EU (CCCEU), told Xinhua that Air freight is ideal to guarantee point-to-point trade exchanges.
In contrast to the land and maritime Silk Roads, the "Air Silk Road" can overcome the infrastructure problems associated with land transportation, as well as the geographical limitations of maritime transportation, Zhou said.
The "Air Silk Road" has also proved its worth by helping save lives during the pandemic.
On March 16, 2020, 300,000 face masks arrived from China at Liege Airport via the "Air Silk Road". This was the first large shipment of personal protective equipment to Belgium since the start of the outbreak. Maggie De Block, the then health minister of Belgium, expressed her country's gratitude to China in a statement.
On March 21, approximately eight tons of medical supplies provided by the Chinese government to Greece arrived at Athens International Airport on an Air China flight. Greek Health Minister Vasilis Kikilias conveyed his country's "deepest and warmest thanks and gratitude" to China at the handover ceremony.
Another batch of medical supplies arrived in Luxembourg one day later via the established Zhengzhou-Luxembourg route. The Finnish National Emergency Supply Agency has also stated that in the spring and summer of this year, a total of 12 medical cargo flights arrived in Finland from China to help the country fight the virus.
On April 14, a large shipment of medical supplies -- including a record 100 tons of medical cargo transported by Antonov An-225 Mriya, the world's largest airlift cargo aircraft -- arrived in Poland from China.
Back in Liege, the airport has become an anti-epidemic rescue center in recent months. Large volumes of medical supplies coming from China pass through the Liege hub and are transferred to 15 European countries, including Italy and France.
CAAC figures show that China has provided anti-epidemic assistance to 47 countries and regions since the outbreak of COVID-19, delivering more than 1,700 tons of medical supplies. This could not have happened without the "Air Silk Road."