Airlines have faith in future of freighters

ASK most freighter operators whether their all-cargo aircraft are making any money at the moment and, if they are honest, most will say “no way”.

That is not stopping them from continuing to accept delivery of new freighters, either because they cannot delay delivery any more or because they are wildly optimistic about the industry’s recovery this year.

The UAE’s Rus Aviation has just received its second converted A300-600R freighter from EADS EFW as part of its on-going fleet expansion programme. EADS delivered the first to Rus in July 2011.

“We believe there will be a full recovery in the air cargo business,” said Saleh al Aroud, chairman of Rus Aviation. “As a result, we are very interested in expanding our aircraft fleet with further Airbus freighter conversions in the long-range segment. Looking ahead, we have an option for a third A300 aircraft, and also we are considering an A310 as a backup option.”

Etihad likewise is bullish about the future with it planning to double its A330-200 freighter fleet. The new order for two more A330-200Fs is worth US$423 million at current list prices.

Etihad Airways chief executive officer, James Hogan, said: “The A330-200F has been a key part of our recent success in the market. We are very pleased with its high reliability and versatility, and that’s why we are keen to expand this fleet type.”

John Leahy, Airbus’s chief operating officer – customers, says the freighter type is a good fit for today’s current state of the market. “In a challenging economic environment, with high fuel prices and yields under pressure, the A330-200F helps match capacity neatly with demand which, allows for efficient cargo operations.”

Away from the Middle East, AirBridgeCargo Airlines (ABC), part of Volga-Dnepr Group, took delivery of the first of its five new Boeing 747-8 freighters. Where it plans to operate the long-delayed but highly regarded freighter is still unknown. The airline continues to expand into inland China with a new scheduled thrice-weekly service to Chengdu International Airport using a 747-400. The stop will be added to the existing Zhengzhou, Moscow (Russia) and Amsterdam (Netherlands) route.

If there is one cargo type that, at least for the next few weeks, freighters will be full of it will be flowers for Valentine’s Day. For example, World Airways has supplied Tampa Cargo with a 747-400 freighter specifically for flowers from Latin America being shipped to North America.

Over in Africa, which supplies most of the flowers for the European markets, Emirates SkyCargo is demonstrating the spreading of flower farming away from its traditional base in Kenya by starting freighter operations to Zambia and Zimbabwe where production is growing.

“While many regions are experiencing challenging economic conditions, Africa, with a population in excess of one billion and rich in natural resources, is one of the few areas to record growth and the long-term outlook is very positive,” said Ram Menen, Emirates’ divisional senior vice-president cargo.

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