Asian Airlines Rethinking their Cargo Fleets

The continued drop in exports and some imports into and out of the Fareast is leading some of the Asian carriers to rethink their cargo operations and look at adjusting their fleet requirements.
This is especially apparent in the north eastern areas within Asia.

Boeing’s 777F is Air China Cargo’s favorite aircraft  -  company courtesy
Boeing’s 777F is Air China Cargo’s favorite aircraft - company courtesy

It’s an interesting development and one which has so far not received much publicity.
Fact is however, many Asian carriers have put a revamping of their cargo fleets way up on their priority lists.

Starting with Air China and ending with Yangtze River Express
A list which was recently published by CAPA-Centre for Aviation shows a distinct move by airlines in the region to look at only using or investing in modern and more fuel efficient freighters for the future.
The trend is definitely seen to be in favour of the Boeing 777F and to some extent, also the Boeing 747-8F.
It is also interesting to note in CAPA’s figures that airlines located in South-East Asia seem to be taking a different approach on their cargo fleets.

Thai and Malaysian have more or less given up on their all freighter routes and Singapore Airlines, the largest cargo carrier in that region, has so far not announced any plans to change their cargo fleet and are sticking to a relatively small fleet of B747Fs which compared to the new generation of freighters, are very expensive to run.

Northeast Asia carrier’s main routes are to the USA
This seems to be the most lucrative market from Asia and is apparently dominated by those carriers based in the northern part of Asia, whereas their counterparts in the southeast are more geared towards Europe, where competition from the Gulf carriers and European airlines is much stronger.
This leads to an unavoidable dilution in yields on these sectors.

The general situation with regards to cargo flows from Asia to North America or Europe is nothing which the carriers, no matter where they operate to, can be happy about.
All the more reason for some forward thinking as to which aircraft are financially more viable to operate in the future.
This it seems, is what airlines such as Air China, EVA Air, Cathay Pacific, China Eastern, China Southern and Korean Air have put into motion.

Fleet renewal is in full swing
The latest carrier to rethink its cargo fleet planning is EVA Air, who announced at this year’s Paris Air Show that it will order five new B777Fs for long haul cargo routes.
EVA Air has a mixed Boeing 747 freighter fleet made up of older aircraft, which it is assumed will eventually be “put out to grass” along with the five MD-11Fs already in storage.

Air China seems to be putting its cards solely on the Boeing 777F. It has six already in service and at least a further two on order. They also now only have 4 B747Fs in service and it is reckoned that we will not see them much longer either.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific prefers operating 747-8 freighters  -  courtesy CX
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific prefers operating 747-8 freighters - courtesy CX

Cathay holds on to their 747-8 freighters…
Cathay Pacific on the other hand is sticking with operating a Boeing 747-8F fleet.
They operate 13 of these large freighters and have a 14th on order.
The older B747-400Fs are being put in storage one by one but the Hong Kong-based airline still operates quite a number of the older models.
China Eastern has six B777Fs in service and China Southern ten, with two more on order.
These two carriers are going all out, as is the case with Air China, to use only the latest Boeing freighter variant.

…while Korean follows a different strategy
Korean Air still sticks with a mixed fleet of Boeing freighters.
This is made up of five B747-8Fs and five B777Fs with a further five on order.

The only carrier in the region which still supports the Airbus freighter is Hong Kong Airlines which has five A330Fs in service, but with no plans to order any more.

Boeing remains as the cargo aircraft leader worldwide, especially in Asia.
Almost all of the carriers mentioned here are convinced that although the initial investment is high, that the cost savings down the line will pay off for them.

The B777F will lead the field in the coming years and the B747-8F coming in as a second best.

John Mc Donagh

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