Philippine carrier Cebu Pacific will become the first low cost airline group to operate freighters when it recently decided to convert two of its ATR 72-500s passenger planes to freighters. Sydney-based consultancy Centre for Aviation (CAPA) speculates that the airline might potentially convert all eight of its ATR 72-500 passenger aircraft to freighters.
With the conversions, Cebu Pacific will not only become the first LCC globally to operate freighters, it will also be the first operator in Asia of any ATR freighter variant and the second ATR
72-500 freighter operator globally.
According to CAPA, ATR is bullish on the cargo market and expects 460 turboprop freighters to be delivered over the next 20 years – a combination of newly launched ATR 72-600Fs and converted older models (CargoForwarder Global, 7 July). Demand is expected to be particularly strong in Southeast Asia, it added. There are currently only 10 turboprop freighters in operation in Southeast Asia, compared to 400 passenger turboprops.
Improving the domestic market position
Earlier this month, Cebu Pacific signed an agreement with Switzerland-based IPR Conversions to convert two of its ATR 72-500 passenger aircraft to freighters. The aircraft are currently in France, where they are being converted by MRO provider Sabena Technics, and are slated to be redelivered to Cebu Pacific in the last quarter of this year.
According to the CAPA report, ATR 72 freighters will significantly improve Cebu Pacific’s position in the domestic Philippines cargo market as the airline will be able to transport LD3 containers to regional airports.
Impressive market share
Cebu Pacific already has a large domestic and international cargo operation, using the bellies of its narrow-body and wide-body fleets. However, it is not currently able to provide a cargo service to smaller airports in the Philippines because ATR 72 passenger aircraft have limited cargo capacity.
CAPA's analysis shows that Cebu Pacific already has approximately a 50% share of the domestic cargo market in the Philippines, which will grow further as it adds ATR 72 freighters.
Freighter operator will be Cebgo
Cebu Pacific’s cargo revenues are also expected to grow significantly as it adds turboprop freighters and palletised A321s. The group generated PHP4.6 billion (US$86 million) in cargo revenues in 2017, which represented a 29% increase compared to 2017.
CAPA said Cebu Pacific's regional subsidiary Cebgo, which operates the group’s ATR 72 passenger fleet, will also operate the new fleet of ATR 72 converted freighters.
Cebgo currently operates 16 passenger aircraft, consisting of 10 ATR 72-600s and six ATR 72-500s. Cebu Pacific mainline currently operates 41 A320 family aircraft and eight A330-300s, according to the CAPA Fleet Database.
Nol van Fenema