Almost exactly one year ago, Hangzhou-based YTO Express Airlines announced an order for ten Boeing 737-800BCFs (Boeing Converted Freighters), with options for an additional ten. This week, the carrier went public with a separate order for three 737-300 freighter conversions with PEMCO World Air Services.
YTO’s new purchase commitment highlights its thirst for capacity in the near-term. It is common sentiment in China that the ultra-competitive domestic air express industry will eventually squeeze-out smaller inefficient carriers without a robust network. The expectation is therefore that the market has room for only two or three formidable competitors, and that time is of the essence for YTO to ramp up its fleet. Bruce Li, CEO of YTO Express Airlines reiterated this attitude in a media release, stating the order supports YTO’s goal of becoming the “Choice of the Chinese”.
YTOs freighter fleet currently stands at five 737-300Fs, with a sixth 737-300 (23739, ex-US Airways) in conversion by PEMCO at the STAECO facility in Jinan. Redelivery of the first Boeing -800 series conversion may take place late this year, but YTO’s redeliveries are likely slated to begin in 2018. PEMCO says it will be able to redeliver all three of the recently ordered 737-300 conversions prior to the end of 2017.
Until 737-800 conversion programs ramp up and feedstock becomes cheaper and more widely available, 737 classic conversions will remain popular. However, feedstock availability for both -300s and -400s is already beginning to tighten and operators and lessors have already snapped-up many of the airframes suitable for conversion.
Those interested in learning more about China’s rapidly growing e-commerce-fueled air express networks should join us at Cargo Facts Asia 25-26 April, 2017 in Shanghai where this year’s speaker faculty includes speakers from Alibaba, Cainiao, SF Express Airlines and others. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com.