West Atlantic‘s customer for the first of four 737-800BCFs on firm order with GECAS is a mystery no longer: it is none other than FedEx, Cargo Facts has confirmed. On 30 June, a West Atlantic Airlines 737-800BCF (32740) touched down at Liege Airport (LGG).
Back in March, we reported that West Atlantic had found a customer for the four Boeing-converted 737-800BCFs it agreed to lease from GECAS. It was then that West Atlantic announced all four aircraft will be operated “on behalf of an express logistics provider, in its current EU-network.”
At the time, the obvious suspect seemed to be Amazon. After all, the e-commerce giant has already dabbled in own-controlled networks in Europe with a number of carriers. It is also widely believed that Amazon issued an RFP in Europe and is considering an expansion of its ad-hoc air operations in the region. In May, ASL Airlines CEO, Hugh Flynn, was quoted in an Irish newspaper saying he hoped to eventually be flying up to ten freighters in a European network for Amazon. To date, however, neither Amazon nor any of the European carriers vying to serve it have made any announcement regarding finalization of a contract.
Returning to the initial redelivery, the first Boeing-converted 737-800BCF (32740) was ferried from Victorville (VCV) to East Midlands (EMA), where it was formally handed over to launch customer GECAS, and then immediately leased to launch operator, West Atlantic. Beginning on about 18 May, the aircraft commenced regular round-trip flights between EMA and Belfast (BFS), according to data from flightradar24. These flights, West Atlantic tells Cargo Facts, were “bedding in” flights operated on behalf of Royal Mail.
Towards the end of June, the -800BCF suddenly ceased flights between EMA and BFS, and was repositioned at LGG, where the aircraft is now based. On 2 July, West Atlantic began utilizing the aircraft for flights to Oslo (OSL), Hannover (HAJ), and Gothenburg (GOT) from LGG. These flights resemble existing flights in the FedEx network, most of which have historically been operated by ASL Airlines on behalf of the express integrator.
A recent post from Jean Muls, Vice President, FedEx Belgium (at right), confirms the aircraft will be operating for FedEx. West Atlantic told Cargo Facts the first aircraft entered into service for FedEx on 2 July, and that all four of the carrier’s firm orders for 737-800BCFs will fly for FedEx. The second aircraft will be redelivered soon and will commence service by the end of July. By February 2019, West Atlantic expects to be operating all four 737-800BCFS for FedEx.
It is unclear at this point if FedEx’s new deal with West Atlantic will supplement the capacity currently provided by ASL Airlines Belgium, replace it, or a combination of both. ASL Aviation Group formed ASL Airlines Belgium to take over the former TNT Airways when FedEx acquired TNT in 2016, and has since continued to operate much of its narrowbody fleet on behalf of FedEx.