Widebody freighter fleet analysis 2016 – Part V

Today we conclude our annual analysis of the widebody freighter fleet. Over the last month we have examined the evolution of the fleet, charted the entire fleet on a carrier-by-carrier basis, discussed trends that will affect the growth and composition of the fleet in the future, and analyzed the makeup of the fleet by aircraft type. (Scroll to the bottom of this page for links to these earlier posts.)

In this final chapter we look at the composition of the fleet from several other perspectives: who built the planes, what kind of airlines fly them, and how the fleet varies by region.

If you are interested in learning more about the state of the air freight and express industry, and how the trends that are emerging today will impact both the widebody and narrowbody freighter fleets in the years to come, join us in Hong Kong next week at Cargo Facts Asia 2016. To register, or for more information, go to www.cargofactsasia.com.

Widebody freighter distribution March 2016The chart at right shows the breakdown of the worldwide widebody freighter fleet, as it stood in early 2016, by manufacturer, by operator type, and by region.

Share by manufacturer

In terms of the composition of the fleet today, the resurgence in demand for the 767-300F increased Boeing’s share of the medium widebody fleet to 50.5% last year, ending many years of Airbus domination of this segment. The Boeing share has increased slightly to 50.8% this year, and with outstanding orders for eighty-one 767-300Fs, as opposed to just eight A330-200Fs, and the boom in 767-300BCF/BDSF conversions, Boeing’s share will continue to grow over the next few years.

Boeing continues to have the large-capacity freighter segment to itself. The in-service numbers reflect a growing quantity of 777 and 747-8 freighters, but as noted the earlier parts of this analysis last month, the number of 747 Classic, MD-11 and MD/DC-10-30 freighters in service declined. Some of the MD-11Fs could be re-activated, just as a handful of 747-400Fs/ERFs were in 2015, but this does not seem likely.

The outstanding orders in the large capacity segment include twenty-five 747‑8Fs and fifty-three 777Fs – down from last year, but still a significant number. [Note that this assumes AirBridgeCargo Airlines will eventually firm its MoU for twenty 747-8Fs.]

Share by carrier type:

It is useful to examine the characteristics of the airlines that utilize widebody freighters. The categories of airline used in this analysis are combination carriers (that is, carriers such as Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Cathay, etc., that operate both passenger and freighter aircraft), express carriers (FedEx, SF Airlines, UPS, etc.), scheduled-service all-cargo carriers (e.g. Cargolux, and Nippon Cargo Airlines), and specialist all-cargo carriers (e.g. Atlas Air, Air Atlanta Icelandic, and Southern Air). Note that members of the specialist group operate most of their freighters on an ACMI or CMI basis in support of combination and express carriers.

Several interesting factors become apparent when examining how widebody freighters are used:

  • Almost 70% of the medium-capacity widebody freighters are operated today by express carriers. This percentage has risen steadily over the last four years, but is still down from 75% in 2001, signifying some added use of freighters of this type by combination carriers and scheduled-service all-cargo airlines. Looking forward, the order backlog shows that the dominance of this market segment by the express companies will continue.
  • Large-capacity freighters, once predominantly used by combination carriers, are now almost equally used by express operators. This is partly due to express operators adding 777Fs, but also to fleet reductions by combination carriers. The backlog of future orders indicates the distribution will shift further to the combination and express carriers in the years ahead, as scheduled all-cargo carriers and ACMI operators have relatively few freighters on order.
  • On an overall basis, taking into account both the medium and large capacity freighter types, express carriers have a 48.5% share of the global widebody freighter fleet, versus 21.6% for combination carriers, 14.5% for scheduled-service all-cargo carriers and 15.4% for specialist all-cargo operators. When considering these percentages, also consider that the categories are not absolute. Atlas Air Worldwide, for example, operates many of its freighters for DHL on either ACMI or CMI contracts. But it also operates a scheduled network serving Latin America from a hub in Miami, and, to complicate matters further, it also operates some passenger aircraft. We show the Atlas fleet in the “Specialist all-cargo” category, but a case can be made both for and against assigning it to other categories.

Share by domicile region

  • Nearly 70% of the medium widebody freighters are operated by airlines based in North America, nearly all by, or in support of, the integrators, unchanged from last year, but down from about 80% in 2001. Future deliveries indicate the North American share will increase going forward. FedEx, UPS, and ABX Air are the main operators.
  • North America-based carriers operate almost 40% of the large capacity widebody freighters, while Asia/Pacific carriers have a 30% share. But while most of the large widebodies in North America are operated by Express or ACMI carriers, most of those in Asia (and in Europe) are operated by combination carriers and scheduled service all-cargo carriers. A look at the outstanding orders for large widebody freighters makes it clear that the North American and Asian shares won’t change much in the coming years, while the Middle East share will increase at the expense of the European share.

The first four parts of this analysis are available at the following links:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

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