Jade cargo International was formed in October 2004 as a joint venture between Chinese and European shareholders (Shenzhen Airlines 51%, Lufthansa Cargo 25% and DEG (a subsidiary of German bank KfW) 24%). The airline had lofty goals ordering six brand new 747-400ERF with the first arriving in July 2006. Jade began operations on August 5, 2006 however they ran into problems almost immediately when the Asia-wide shortage of aircrew meant it could not find enough pilots to fly the new jets. Leasing costs ate into prospective profits as the aircraft sat on the ground at its base Shenzhen.
The worsening economic situation in Europe also impacted Jade's operations so that it struggled to be profitable. Piecemeal schedule changes eroded market confidence though routing flights via India did provide some compensation. The later introduction of a Vietnam sector to help share loads was less successful and losses continued to mount.
Jade continued to accept its 747s with three aircraft joining in 2007 (B-2441, B-2421-22) and the last in September 2008 (B-2423). Three of the 747s were owned with three leased (two from Amentum and one from AWAS). Unfortunately despite the growth in fleet cargo volumes continued to decrease and the carrier ceased flying on December 31. The grounding was only supposed to be temporary as the airline's statement said:
'The temporary suspension of Jade Cargo services is due to overall weak air cargo demand. It will also provide the shareholders with an opportunity to coordinate with stakeholders to continue with the restructuring of the company’s financial structure.'
Lufthansa Cargo wrote off a loss of $47.5 million on Jade Cargo which by 2012 had debts of $707 million and assets of only $534 million. A letter of intent was signed with Wuhan based Uni-top (who already owned their own airline, Uni-top airlines) for them to takeover Jade, however with costs continuing to mount and the restructuring unsuccessful they pulled out of the deal in May 2012. The airline was liquidated in June 2012. Jade wasn't alone in suffering this fate as another joint venture cargo airline, Chinese/Korean Grandstar Cargo also went out of business, in May 2012, in similar circumstances.
The Jade fleet has had a chequered career since. The three owned birds still remain in storage and have not been placed elsewhere, however the three leased aircraft have all found homes. B-2439 was the airline's first aircraft and was delivered directly from Boeing on July 30, 2006. She was stored at Victorville following Jade's demise but was finally redelivered to AirBridge cargo on August 17, 2014 as VQ-BUU.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: