Mystery Machines: Whose four 777Fs are these?

Boeing recently announced an order for four 777 Freighters from “Unidentified Customer(s)”. Based on information from sources in North America and the UK, Cargo Facts believes that the end user of the four freighters will be Saudia Cargo, the cargo arm of Jeddah-based Saudia. In addition to the 777F order, it is believed that an order for a number of A330-200Fs for Saudia Cargo either has already been placed or soon will be placed, and that additional 777Fs may be ordered in the future. (As is the case with the two 747-8Fs operated by Saudia Cargo, the identity of the actual buyer of the 777Fs and A330-200Fs may never be publicly known. Saudia is government-controlled, and the carrier’s finances are not open to inspection.)

In addition to its two 747-8Fs, Saudia Cargo currently operates four of its own MD-11Fs, and ACMI-leases eight 747-400 Freighters – six from Air Atlanta Icelandic, two from Turkey-based myCargo, and all but one converted from passenger configuration. Given the carrier’s rapidly growing cargo business, and the fact that the MD-11Fs and freighter-converted 747-400Fs are not the youngest or most fuel-efficient aircraft, upgrading with new production freighters is hardly surprising.

However, if the rumor of new freighters for Saudia Cargo is true, the impact could be felt far beyond the carrier’s own fleet. If the new freighters replace the leased units, where will Air Atlanta and myCargo turn for new customers? The ACMI market for large widebody freighters is becoming increasingly difficult. Australia-based Qantas recently chose not to renew the ACMI lease with Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings on a 747-400F.  IAG Cargo invoked early termination of the leases of three 747-8Fs ultimately owned by Atlas, and those aircraft will be returned to Atlas at the end of April. If financially-troubled Qantas makes the same non-renewal decision with its two other Atlas 747-400Fs, and Saudia ends some or all of its ACMI leases, where will all these aircraft find homes?

Learn more about the international air cargo market at Cargo Facts Asia, April 1-2 in Hong Kong. Click here for details.

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3 Comments

  1. Good question … not always good to be the biggest guys around.

    Another question is where is the freight coming from for this Saudia expansion? …. Or are they just buying jets to try and keep pace and market space with the bigger carriers next door?

    All in all … IAG’s strategic clairvoyance and lash up with Qatar was perfectly timed … especially if the mysterious jets end up where we are speculating they will. 

  2. Saudia has been seeing significant steady growth in cargo demand over the last few years, and a move to modernize its fleet is, if anything, overdue. I expect the new freighters (assuming it is Saudia that will be operating them) will be used to replace the ACMI-leased 747Fs, but we’ll have to wait and see. And also wait to find out when they will be delivered.

    As to your question of where Saudia’s freight is coming from — Probably from the same Asian and European airlines that the other Gulf Region carriers are taking market share from. 

  3. Breaking news (and good news for Atlas): Although Qantas yesterday announced dreadful results for the first half of it’s current fiscal year, and will cut staff, routes, and aircraft, it will extend its ACMI lease of two 747-400Fs with Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings. 

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