U.A.E.-based Etihad Airways is further reducing its freighter fleet, as the 777F (39682) it had operated on behalf of FedEx Express in December 2020 is being acquired by the integrator, which now has forty-six 777Fs [FAT 005863].
FedEx confirmed the transaction to Cargo Facts, saying that the purchase of unit 39682 is part of the company’s “ongoing fleet modernization plan,” and that the aircraft will go into operation later this year.
Unit 39682 is currently at the AvEx painting facility in New Iberia (ARA), La., which lists FedEx as one of its major customers. The 777F had been used to supplement FedEx’s capacity during the holiday peak, flying exclusively between Memphis (MEM) and London Stansted (STN) from Dec. 1 to Christmas Day. Before that, it had been in Abu Dhabi (AUH) since late August.
Etihad did not comment on the removal of the 777F.
FedEx confirmed that its acquisition of unit 39682 had not previously been planned; according to the company’s stat books for the first and second quarters of the fiscal year 2021, released Sept. 15 and Dec. 17, 2020, respectively, it had not expected to take delivery of any 777Fs until fiscal 2022, which begins June 1, 2021.
FedEx only received two new 777Fs from Boeing in 2020: unit 66255 in June and unit 66256 in August. As of Nov. 30, FedEx is committed to purchasing thirteen 777Fs from Boeing, although the planemaker shows just seven on firm order for the express integrator at the end of November.
For Etihad’s part, the airline is now left with just five 777Fs. It previously had five A330-200Fs; these were removed from the fleet toward the end of 2017 and eventually picked up by DHL Express.
Fellow U.A.E. carrier Emirates also returned two 777Fs off lease in 2019 and now has eleven. In fact, the only Middle Eastern combination carrier to have continuously grown its freighter fleet in at least the last several years is Qatar Airways, which took three 777Fs just before the end of 2020 and now has thirty freighters.
It is unclear if a smaller cargo fleet is part of Etihad’s overall restructure to a medium-sized airline. Meanwhile, the carrier still has twenty-six A321neos, fifteen A350-1000s, twenty-five 777Xs, eleven 787-9s and twenty-one 787-10s on order.