Monaco-based Stratos has become the first known lessor to step into the A330 conversion market, prompted by the pandemic.
The company ferried an A330-300 (713, ex-AirAsia X) from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Dresden (DRS) on July 16, ahead of induction for conversion into freighter configuration by Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) [FAT 005506]. The aircraft, which is more than fourteen years old, was first delivered to China Eastern in 2006, and had been parked since mid-March, after operating a flight from Denpasar (DPS) back to KUL.
Unit 713 joined the Malaysia-based AirAsia X in late 2018 and had previously been on a long-term lease, Stratos told Cargo Facts. However, the airline and Stratos agreed to terminate that agreement early so the lessor could repurpose the aircraft as a freighter. Stratos said it was able to make the quick decision because its investors are “highly reactive” and the aircraft has the right age and maintenance profile to make it ideal for freighter conversion.
Stratos expects redelivery of unit 713 in April 2021, and while the aircraft has yet to be placed, there are ongoing discussions with “a number of prospective lessees.”
AirAsia X Malaysia, which now has twenty-three A330-300s in its fleet, was reported in February to have been seeking lease payment deferrals with lessors.
Stratos said it had previously been involved in the freighter market when it helped DHL secure several 757s for conversion in 2015, and also sold some ATR 72-500s that were converted into freighters for ASL Airlines. Currently unit 713 is slated to be the only freighter in its portfolio of around thirty aircraft. But Stratos could enlarge its focus on freighters. The lessor told Cargo Facts that, while it has five other A330s in its managed portfolio that are too young to be considered for conversion, it also has four 777-300ERs it may consider converting, given the right timing and conditions.
When EFW redelivered the first freighter-converted A330 with a higher maximum gross payload in late May, it said it was seeing increased interest in A330 conversions in light of the depressed passenger market.
The company is currently working on the conversion of two A330-300s in DRS: an ex-Shanghai Airlines aircraft (781) that arrived in July 2019, and a ten-year-old frame (1124, ex-Hong Kong Airlines) that was inducted in March.