Bulgaria-based Cargo Air still holds firm orders for two 737-800BCFs along with two options but has agreed with Boeing to postpone the agreement for another two years to 2023 because the 737 MAX issues are causing 737-800 feedstock prices to remain high, the carrier confirmed to Cargo Facts. When the price is right, Cargo Air might consider adding the 737-800s to its fleet and first operating them in passenger configuration until conversion slots become available.
In the meantime, a planned 737-400 passenger-to-freighter conversion is also delayed. Cargo Air will keep a single 737-400 (28882, ex-Go2Sky) in passenger configuration and maintain ACMI operations with it for leisure carriers for “at least one more summer season” in 2020 because of high demand for passenger 737 frames while the MAX is grounded, the carrier told Cargo Facts.
Unit 28882, which Cargo Air acquired in November 2018, is currently ACMI-leased to Czech airline Smartwings, which has seven 737 MAX 8 aircraft in storage while Boeing works to recertify the MAX. Cargo Air said that, apart from the demand for passenger 737s, there has also been a bit of a stall in demand for additional freighter capacity. Because of this, Cargo Air will be investing in refurbishing 28882 with a new cabin as well as other tech upgrades.
This isn’t the first time Cargo Air has carried passengers. In April 2017, after the airline obtained approval for passenger transport using its AOC, it began flying on an ACMI basis for Greece-based Astra Airlines during the summer of 2017 and then for Air Mediterranean, another Greek leisure airline, during the summer of 2018. That 737-400 (28038, ex-Enter Air), which Cargo Air acquired in December 2018, was then inducted for conversion into freighter configuration in November 2018 and rejoined the fleet this April.
Excluding unit 28882, Cargo Air’s fleet now consists of three 737-300SFs and seven 737-400SFs, flying predominantly on behalf of DHL Express.