Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Crystal Cargo is planning to launch its first freight service to Beijing from 11 August.

The service to Beijing will use the airline’s Boeing MD-11 freighter aircraft with a capacity to carry 88 metric tonnes and will be operated twice a week.

Etihad Crystal Cargo is a division of Etihad Airways and has a fleet of two Airbus A300-600 aircraft and two MD-11 aircraft. During the UK’s Farnborough Airshow in July, Etihad received its first Airbus A330 plane that will start cargo operations in September.

The new cargo service is aimed at increasing Etihad’s presence in China, which is a rapidly growing freight market and will improve trade ties between China and the UAE.

Etihad Crystal Cargo operates to 22 destinations in the Middle East and Africa region and 70 destinations worldwide.

Etihad Airways already operates a passenger service to Beijing five times each week and is scheduled to begin flights to Seoul in South Korea in December (MEED 21:7:10).

The carrier recorded an 11 per cent increase in passenger traffic in the first half of 2010, bringing traveller numbers to almost 3.3 million. The airline also recorded a 21.6 per cent growth in cargo traffic during the same period.