Two Atlas Air 747-400Fs (29253 and 29254) that had been flying on an ACMI basis for Qantas Freight ceased operations on Sunday as part of a planned transition to larger 747-8Fs. Surprisingly, they have been replaced not by two 747-8Fs, but with another two Atlas 747-400Fs (30588 and 32840).
According to a statement by Atlas this April, it had agreed with Qantas to upgauge the two 747s to -8Fs from “late July 2019” and would fly them on trans-Pacific routes connecting Australia and Asia with the US. Based on flight-tracking data and Qantas’ freighter schedule, unit 30588 appears to have replaced unit 29253 on flight QF7552 from Chicago (ORD) to Sydney (SYD) via Los Angeles (LAX), Honolulu (HNL) and Auckland (AKL), while unit 32840 has taken over from unit 29254, operating flight QF7554 from ORD to SYD via HNL after 29254 arrived in ORD from New York (JFK).
It is unclear whether the arrangement has changed or been postponed and Atlas hasn’t provided a comment to Cargo Facts at the time of writing. Of course, it’s still possible that the deal takes effect on the very last day of July, and that two 747-8Fs will make their way towards Australia on Wednesday, but it seems unlikely that units 29253 and 29254 would be switched out for units 30588 and 32840 for a duration of less than a week. It is also unclear at this point which two -8F frames would be available to begin flying for Qantas.
Incidentally, unit 32840 was the 747-400F that Atlas had deployed to operate for Air France KLM Martinair Cargo on a short-term ACMI lease to make up for lost capacity after one of the carrier’s 747-400ERFs (33694) was involved in a minor ground collision in Dar-es-Salaam (DAR) last month and another (33696) was just about to fly to Xiamen (XMN) for a scheduled D-check. KLM Cargo had previously told Cargo Facts that it was expecting 33696 to complete the D-check and fly back to Amsterdam (AMS) on July 30.