Amid an ongoing deal to be acquired by a consortium led by HDC Group, South Korea-based Asiana Airlines is looking toward the renewal of its freighter fleet, currently consisting of seven 747-400BDSFs, four 747-400Fs and one 767-300F, along with a parked 747-400BDSF.
Asiana Cargo told Cargo Facts it is considering upgrading its fleet with 777Fs “or other modern freighters” in 2022, adding that the 777Fs will probably be purchased directly from Boeing. While the 777F comes as no surprise, could “modern freighters” refer to the 747-8F?
Even though the sole manufacturer of 747 fuselage sections began selling off equipment late last year and the status of Boeing’s 747-8 program is uncertain, we note Boeing’s recent dispute with Russia-based Volga-Dnepr Group. As of the end of May, Boeing still showed three 747-8Fs on the backlog for Volga-Dnepr, but if Boeing’s argument that Volga-Dnepr had not rescinded the repudiation of its 747-8F purchase contract was successful, Boeing could potentially sell those three aircraft to another customer, just as it did with unit 63784 to UPS, which recently returned from being repainted.
Of course, Asiana could also acquire 747-8Fs from an existing operator or lessor, or lease them. The carrier was rumored to be leasing several 747-8Fs in 2014, but that deal never materialized.
In any case, the freighter fleet will remain unchanged until 2022, according to Asiana, in addition to three 747-400Fs ACMI-leased from Atlas Air. But the airline’s overall cargo capacity has been growing through the arrival of A350s with large bellies. Asiana already has eleven A350-900s, with ten more -900s and nine -1000s to come.
By contrast, fellow South Korean carrier Korean Air’s freighter fleet consists of four 747-400Fs, seven 747-8Fs and twelve 777Fs.
The status of a 2015 agreement Asiana and seven other South Korean airlines signed with the country’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to operate aircraft not older than twenty years old is uncertain, even if the limit for cargo aircraft is usually higher, based on similar restrictions in other countries.
With the exception of two production 747-400Fs (29170 and 33748), all of Asiana’s freighters are between twenty and thirty years old, including two 747 combis (25782 and 25784) converted into full freighters in 2017. The carrier said it will not convert any more of its passenger aircraft and is not considering narrowbody freighters for now.
Asiana Cargo told Cargo Facts that HDC Group, which agreed to acquire a majority stake in Asiana Airlines at the end of 2019, sees cargo as much more lucrative than the passenger business. The acquisition deal appears to have been delayed to the second half of this year, according to local reports.
Cargo contributed to 25% of overall transport revenue for both Asiana and Korean Air in 2019, the second-highest proportion among major combination carriers.