Mystery Machines: Whose four 777Fs are these?

Saudia Cargo 747-8F

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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