After what appeared to be a good start, 2015 turned into something of a limbo year for air freight. By March, with the one-time boost from the US West Coast ocean port labor strife fading, it became apparent that underlying growth in demand was relatively small, and the remainder of the year brought little change. Not that 2015 was a horrible year – demand for airfreight will likely be up between 1% and 2% from 2014 – but it can hardly be considered a good year.
However, despite pessimism about demand, carriers worldwide ordered more production freighters than they have for many years. The big boost came from FedEx, which ordered another fifty 767-300Fs as part of its ongoing fleet modernization, but even without the FedEx order, the total would still have been higher in 2015 than in any of the previous three years.
Airbus and Boeing currently offer a total of four production jet freighters:
A330-200F: Airbus booked four orders in 2015 for its only production freighter, all from Turkish Airlines. During the year, the manufacturer delivered three units, two to Qatar Airways, and one to Turkish. To date, Airbus has booked a total of forty-two orders for the A330-200F, and delivered thirty-three, leaving it with a backlog of nine units.
747-8F: After several years of drought, some rain finally fell on Boeing’s largest freighter. The manufacturer booked six firm 747-8F orders in 2015, from three carriers (Silk Way, 3; AirBridgeCargo, 2; and Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, 1). Japan-based Nippon Cargo Airlines cancelled four orders, leaving a total of just two. However, good news arrived at the Paris Air Show, in the form of a letter of intent from AirBridge’s parent, Volga-Dnepr Group, for twenty 747-8Fs. We tend to be cautious in our reporting of letters of intent and memoranda of understanding, but since AirBridge has already take delivery of two of the twenty, it seems clear that Volga-Dnepr is serious. Whether they will take all twenty remains to be seen, but this is clearly more than just a whim.
On the delivery side of the equation, Boeing handed over seven 747-8Fs five customers in 2015, with Cargolux and AirBridgeCargo each taking two, while Atlas Air, Korean, and Silk Way each took one. Boeing has now taken orders for eighty-eight 747-8Fs (including the LoI from Volga-Dnepr), and has twenty-fiveremaining in its backlog.
777F: The resurgence in 777F orders that began in 2014 continued in 2015, with Boeing booking sixteen orders for the type, from four customers: Korean Air and EVA (five each), Qatar Airways (four), and Etihad Airways (two).
During the year Boeing delivered nineteen 777Fs to nine customers: China Southern Airlines and Saudia (four each), Air China Cargo (three), Ethiopian Airlines and FedEx (two each), and Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (for end user Emirates), Korean Air, Lufthansa Cargo, and Qatar Airways (one each). Boeing has taken orders for 169 777Fs, and its backlog now stands at fifty-one.
767-300F: FedEx continued its fleet modernization program with an order for fifty 767-300Fs in 2016. The Memphis-based integrator was also Boeing’s only 767-300F delivery customer in the year, taking a total of sixteen units.
Boeing has now taken orders for a total of 190 767-300Fs and delivered 108, leaving it with eighty-one units in its backlog.