Mexico-based Aeronaves TSM has received its first 737-400F as part of its quick expansion into the 737 freighter segment, with eight more of the type slated to join the fleet in the coming months.
The carrier is among at least two others adding 737 Classic freighters to their fleets this year, highlighting Mexico’s e-commerce and express boom.
Express companies, and e-tailers in particular, have been leaning into airfreight globally, and Latin America has been no exception. Argentina-based e-commerce retailer Mercado Libre launched a dedicated air operation with four freighters last year, including one of Aeronaves TSM’s own DC-9Fs (47194) that now features Mercado Libre’s yellow branding. During Mercado Libre’s fourth-quarter earnings release in March, the company said its dedicated fleet had grown to seven freighters, “covering eight routes across Mexico and Brazil to complement the use of our commercial airline capacity to continue driving down our delivery times,” said CFO Pedro Arnt. “We look forward to continuing to unlock value from this important and growing part of our business as we move into 2021 and beyond,” he said.
Despite the large number of new freighter additions by carriers based in Mexico, observers do not consider fleet growth as a temporary response to scarce belly capacity. “If you look at Mexico, most of the domestic air capacity has returned, and there’s a lot of capacity available on the narrowbodies right now,” Alonso Haro, managing director of AeroUnion, told Cargo Facts.
Travel within Mexico, the ninth-largest market in the world for domestic travel, has recovered faster than eight of the ten biggest domestic markets by total domestic seats, according to data from OAG Aviation Worldwide. In April, the number of domestic seats was down 16% compared to 2019. For the same period, available seats in Brazil and the United States are 57% and 27% lower, respectively.
“With regards to the new narrowbody freighters joining the fleets of carriers in the region, I can conclude that they are focusing on a more specific target or more specific customers, rather than the whole cargo that is available on the market.”
AeroUnion, which operates medium-widebody A300-600Fs and 767-200BDSFs primarily on international flights between Mexico and the United States, continues to see robust demand continue on its north-south routes, even as bellyhold capacity is returned to the market, Haro said.
International routes connecting Mexico and the United States are also closer to pre-pandemic frequencies than any other two international markets. There are currently more seats available between the United States and Mexico than any other two country pairs, according to data from OAG Aviation Worldwide. The number of available seats was down just 9% in April 2021, compared to April 2019.
Returning to TSM’s newly added freighter, unit 26529 (ex-Colt Cargo), a 737-400F manufactured in 1994 and converted by PEMCO in 2013, arrived at TSM’s base in Saltillo (SLW) April 14.
Aeronaves TSM also purchased another PEMCO-converted 737-400F (28151, ex-Qantas) in February. That aircraft is currently parked in Al Ain (AAN) in the U.A.E. and has been inactive since October 2019, after the resolution of the dispute involving new startup Emirates International Air Cargo.
In addition to the two 737 freighters, Aeronaves TSM recently began acquiring and converting its own passenger 737-400s, with the first (28150, ex-Comair) having been inducted at the Commercial Jet facility in Dothan (DHN) in March and a second (24904, ex-GetJet Airlines) to follow this summer.
The induction kicks off a series of 737-400SF orders Aeronaves TSM has placed with Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI). In late 2020, the carrier ordered one conversion plus one option, then exercised that option earlier this year and ordered one more. In March, Aeronaves TSM topped up its order with four more 737-400SF conversions and, as things currently stand, will end up with two 737-400Fs and seven 737-400SFs in total.
At the same time, Aeronaves TSM continues to expand its CRJ 200SF and MD-80SF fleets, with multiple aircraft in conversion or on order with AEI. The carrier did not respond to requests for comment on its fleet growth.
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