Taiwan-based combination carrier EVA Air plans to take delivery of three 777Fs on order with Boeing by the end of 2021, ahead of schedule.
During a shareholder’s meeting on July 16, EVA Chairman Lin Bou-Shiu told investors it had reached an agreement with Boeing to accelerate its 777F delivery schedule from 2022. The airline now expects to receive 777Fs in October, November and December, according to local media reports.
Previously at an investors conference on April 22, EVA had said it was negotiating an earlier delivery schedule and that negotiations were “ongoing.”
In August 2020, when EVA and Boeing agreed to convert EVA’s outstanding orders for seven 787-10s into an order for four 787-9s and three 777Fs, neither company provided a firm delivery timeline. EVA later said 777F deliveries would commence in Q1 of 2022.
It’s unclear if the revised schedule was at all affected by recent setbacks with Boeing’s 777X program. In May, the Federal Aviation Administration told Boeing 777X certification may require additional flight tests which could push certification out to 2023. While robust demand for the 777F, which shares an assembly line with the 777X, will keep production humming, Qatar Airways recently said it could not take delivery of any 777Fs before 2023.
Sluggish demand following the Great Recession prompted EVA to pare down its once-mighty fleet, which in 2008 consisted of sixteen aircraft: eight MD-11Fs, three 747-400Fs and five 747-400BDSFs.
Following the deliveries, EVA’s freighter fleet will grow to eight units — a size not seen since 2015, when the carrier operated three 747-400Fs and five 747-400BDSFs. Since then, the fleet has transitioned to a five-unit fleet. Two 747-400BDFs were retired in 2016, and a third was retired in 2017 following the delivery of EVA’s first 777F. In 2018, EVA retired three 747-400Fs, and took delivery of two 777Fs. Since January 2019, the fleet has comprised of five aircraft.
The fleet growth follows a bumper year for EVA’s cargo business. Cargo revenue rose 97% year over year to $1.78 billion in 2020 on tonnage that was up 15.3%, to 700,000 tonnes. Although EVA markets and utilizes cargo capacity on its widebody passenger flights, revenue collected from freighter flights accounted for 75% of its overall cargo revenue in 2020. North American routes comprise the bulk of EVA’s freighter network, with the trans-Pacific trade lane contributing 63% of EVA’s cargo revenues in 2020, a slight increase from 60% in 2019, according to the annual report.
Other combination carriers have upped their investment in freighters, including fellow Taiwan-based carrier China Airlines, which began taking delivery of six 777Fs on order with Boeing last year. Although the freighters are intended to eventually start replacing some of its eighteen 747-400Fs, the carrier is holding off on retirements, at least for now. As of April, the carrier said it expects to grow its fleet from the current twenty-one units to twenty-four by early 2023, when the last of the three outstanding 777Fs on order are delivered.
Germany-based Lufthansa Cargo recently ordered another 777F, and plans to add to its fleet a pair of freighter-converted A321-200s — a new type for the carrier.
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