Recent headlines have been full of “the death of freighters,” with the diminishing fleet of Air France-KLM and the eliminated fleet of IAG pointed out as examples of how the big cargo players are exiting the main-deck freight business.
So, belly cargo is the future, right?
Not so fast! Last year at this time we pointed out that despite the fact that some carriers were downsizing or eliminating their freighter fleets, others were building main-deck capacity faster than carriers like AF-KLM and IAG were getting rid of it.
And since last year, there has been no slowdown in that build-up.
But it is not just the big four Gulf Region carriers that are adding freighters. When we look at the big competitors to the Western European carriers, we have to add at least two more to the list: Russia-based AirBridgeCargo, and Turkish Airlines. Both of these carriers have been reporting Gulf-like increases in cargo traffic for some time, and both are adding freighters.
The chart above shows our projection for the combined fleets of the four Gulf Region carriers, as well as ABC and Turkish, when the freighters they are known or believed to have on order are delivered. It is possible that some of the older freighters may be retired by then – the A310s at Turkish, or some of the 747-400s at Saudia – or that some of the freighters ACMI-leased by Emirates or Etihad may be returned to the lessors. And the AirBridge order for twenty 747-8Fs may shrink somewhat. But given the projected continuing growth in air freight demand, any retirements or returns will likely be balanced by further orders.
So, while it is true that the once-mighty freighter fleet of Air France-KLM is shrinking rapidly, and may even disappear altogether, it seems safe to say that the total number of freighters in Europe and the Middle East is increasing, not decreasing. and those freighters are moving east.
To learn more about freighter fleet dynamics, click here.