Between 28 December and 11 January, Abu Dhabi-headquartered Etihad Airways removed all five of its A330-200 production freighters from service and placed them into storage. For months, there were whispers about where these relatively young freighters (2010-2017 vintage) would end up. The answer to this question became clear earlier this week when EAT Leipzig took redelivery of the first ex-Etihad A330-200F (1524) sporting a DHL Express livery and a new German registration (D-ALMD). Like the other four A330-200Fs Etihad currently has in storage, EAT Leipzig will operate these aircraft on behalf of DHL Express.
As the launch customer for EFW’s A330-300 passenger-to-freighter conversion program, DHL was long thought to be a top-contender for Etihad’s A330s. Given the expanse of DHL’s network, there are certainly routes where utilizing the production freighter would offer advantages over the converted freighters.
DHL’s interest in A330 freighters dates back to a 2016 launch order with EFW for four A330-300 conversions. The launch order was later upped to a total of eight firm conversion orders, with options for ten additional aircraft. The first two freighter-converted A330-300Fs (116, ex-Malaysia Airlines and 127, ex-Hi Fly) have already been redelivered and are currently in the fleet of DHL-affiliate airline Air Hong Kong, operated by ASL Airlines. The third aircraft (231, ex-Thai Airways International) is currently at EFW’s MRO facility in Dresden, undergoing conversion to freighter configuration.
With a total of thirty-one A300-600Fs currently in operation for DHL with Air Hong Kong and EAT Leipzig, it would not be surprising if the global integrator firmed up orders for additional P2F conversions. This week’s addition of factory-built freighters also leads one to question whether DHL might opt for more factory-built A330s – if not the A330-200F, then perhaps the re-engined successor to the A330-300 Airbus is currently studying, the A330-900F.
Those interested in learning more about the future of widebody freighters are invited to join us 10-12 October at the Omni San Diego for Cargo Facts Symposium, where these questions will be addressed on a panel titled, “The Next Big Freighter?” For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactssymposium.com. Discounted Early Bird registration ends on 24 August.