Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, the parent of Southern Air, announced today that it had secured a contract with DHL Express to operate the first two of at least fourteen, and up to twenty-one, 777-200Fs the express integrator has on order with Boeing [FATs 004505–4525]. As for the remaining twelve 777Fs on firm order with Boeing, Atlas says its affiliate carriers have an “opportunity” to operate additional 777Fs as they are delivered, but that DHL has not yet designated an operator.
Following the second 777F delivery, which is expected shortly, Southern Air will operate a total of eight 777Fs on behalf of DHL Express. Cargo Facts reported on the first delivery to DHL Express, and the subsequent handover to Southern Air last month. Photos of DHL’s second aircraft (66080), currently undergoing assembly at Boeing’s Everett plant, suggested the unit was bound for the Southern Air fleet. A few weeks after the first 777F delivery, when DHL Express confirmed the aircraft’s placement with Southern Air, there was mention of a gradual phase-out of older 747-400s. Atlas Air confirmed in today’s announcement that two 747-400Fs currently operating for the express integrator will soon stop flying for DHL Express.
Looking beyond DHL’s second 777F in final assembly that is ultimately bound for the Southern Air fleet, to the twelve 777Fs on firm order, and options for up to seven more, Southern Air may face competition from other CMI providers. Last year, Air Transport Services Group, Inc. acquired Oklahoma-based Omni Air, which provides ACMI services with a fleet of 767s and 777s. ATSG has since noted the relevance of the 777 platform to the company’s core cargo business and is undoubtedly interested in exploring CMI 777F ops for DHL. Outside of North America, additional 777Fs are operating in the Aerologic fleet – including in DHL’s 50/50 JV with Lufthansa Cargo (see widebody freighter fleet analysis for breakdown). DHL could choose to place some of its incoming 777Fs with carriers based in Europe, North America, or elsewhere, but has yet to confirm the region in which remaining 777Fs will be based.