While the passenger airline business suffers from capacity cuts on an unprecedented scale due to the coronavirus pandemic, freighter operators are experiencing a surge in demand and charter activity as less and less belly capacity becomes available.
However, no parked freighters appear to have been removed from storage and brought back into service so far. Notably, this includes Atlas Air’s four freighter-converted 747-400Fs that were removed from charter service in the last few months due to soft demand. These aircraft are two 747-400BCFs (24833 and 26557), parked at Marana (MZJ) since Jan. 2, and at Lleida-Alguaire (ILD) since Feb. 2, respectively, and two 747-400BDSFs (27062 and 27174), parked at MZJ since Dec. 29 and Dec. 24, respectively.
Atlas Air didn’t go into specifics as to whether or not the four freighters would be reactivated, only telling Cargo Facts market opportunities are currently on the upswing for main-deck freighters, and it would continue to leverage its commercial charter business to capitalize on customer demand.
One other 747-400F (29258) previously operated by Atlas has been stored at MZJ since Jan. 27. This is likely the aircraft that the carrier said would be returned to its lessor during the first half of 2020.
Meanwhile, two of the four 747Fs operated by Volga-Dnepr affiliate CargoLogicAir, which suspended operations in February, are still parked. Unit 33749, a sixteen-year-old 747-400F, has been in Dubai (DXB) since Feb. 9, while unit 32870, a slightly younger 747-400F, has been in Leipzig (LEJ) since Feb. 3 but recently operated a short test flight around LEJ on March 5. For now, the group says it is too early to tell if the CargoLogicAir AOC could be resurrected. Still, we wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of these frames return to service soon should demand persist, even if with a different operator.
Another carrier with stored production 747-400Fs is Taiwan-based China Airlines, with two aircraft (30760 and 30761) parked in Victorville (VCV) since August 2012. The airline, which is in the process of remarketing three of its other in-service 747-400Fs, is unlikely to bring the parked aircraft out of the desert.
Apart from Atlas’ four parked aircraft, a number of currently inactive converted 747-400Fs could feasibly return to the skies. Slovakia-based Air Cargo Global, which recently closed its German branch but is undergoing a restructure, expects that to be complete by April. The company has three 747-400BDSFs, one (24311) in Kiraganda (KGF) and two (24998 and 25075) in Liege (LGG).
Western Global Airlines has two 747-400BCFs, one of which (26344) has been stored since December 2019 in Shreveport (SHV), where the company has its own maintenance facility, while Cathay Pacific sent its last 747-400BCF (25152) to MZJ in October 2019 and Thai Airways brought one of its stored 747-400BCFs (24459) to Jakarta (CGK) for maintenance in September 2019.
We note that the MD-11F, another large widebody freighter that is a possible candidate for reactivation, has recently seen an uptick in retirements. FedEx, which has ferried three MD-11Fs to VCV this year, declined to comment on if it would reconsider bringing them back into service, while Lufthansa Cargo, which had planned to retire all of its MD-11Fs by the end of the year, could not be reached for comment on whether that plan is still in place.