Malaysia Airlines to end freighter operation?

MASkargo A330-200F taking offFaced with reports that it was planning to sell or lease many of its widebody aircraft – including its entire MASkargo freighter fleet – financially troubled Malaysia Airlines said it was “exploring fleet options.”

This comment – or non-comment – came via the Malaysia Airlines twitter feed, in response to a Leeham News report detailing the carrier’s offer for sale or lease sixteen widebodies, including six freighters. Altogether, the report claimed Malaysia Airlines was attempting to offload two 747-400Fs and four A330-200Fs, as well as six A380s and four 777-200ERs, as part of a plan to regain profitability by focusing on regional operations.

Malaysia Airlines has been losing money for some time, with the losses often blamed on poor management, government interference, and strong, reform-resistant unions. And, of course, the loss of two 777-200 passenger aircraft last year – MH370, the flight that disappeared and still hasn’t been found; and MH17, the flight that was shot down over Ukraine – only made things worse.

Much could be written about majority shareholder Khazanah Nasional (a state-owned investment fund) buying up all outstanding shares, taking the company private, and hiring ex-Air Lingus boss Christoph Mueller as CEO, but of more interest to Cargo Facts’ readers will be the exit of another combination carrier from the main-deck freight arena, and the impact, if any, on Airbus’ A330-200F production freighter program of the availability of four almost-new units in the used market.

As is the case with Boeing and its 747-8F, Airbus has struggled in recent years to book new orders for its A330-200F, To date, Airbus has taken a total of forty-two orders and delivered thirty-one A330 freighters, leaving a backlog of eleven units. If the report that the MASkargo A330-200Fs are now on the market is true, then selling new production units will be more difficult.

As to the 747-400Fs, they are relatively young (2006 build), but with some fifty 747-400 freighters already in storage, Malaysia Airlines may struggle to find a taker. And even if it does, market value will probably be nowhere near book value.

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