E-commerce drives express fleet expansion — Part II

Following its acquisition of TNT, FedEx transferred TNT's three 777Fs to its own fleet.
Following its acquisition of TNT, FedEx transferred TNT’s three 777Fs to its own fleet.

Today, in Part II of our annual analysis of the worldwide express fleet, we look at changes to the fleets of two of the three biggest players – FedEx and UPS. We start with TNT, which was acquired by FedEx last year. (You can read Part I here.)

As part of FedEx’s acquisition of TNT Express, Ireland-based ASL Aviation Group acquired TNT Airways and Pan Air, renaming them ASL Airlines Belgium and ASL Airlines Spain, respectively. The TNT brand will eventually disappear, merged into the FedEx brand, but ASL will carry on European air operations – although without the three 777Fs that have been in the TNT fleet since 2011. FedEx transferred those three freighters to its own fleet early this year, and it also appears that at least two of the four 747-400ERFs will also leave the ASL fleet, as Emirates recently announced that it would not renew the ACMI leases on the two 747-400ERFs ASL operates for it. While no further announcements have been made, it seems likely that ASL will return them to lessor Aircastle.

The remaining freighters in the ASL Belgium and Spain fleets are a mix of owned (the BAe 146QTs and one 737-400F), dry-leased (two 737-300Fs, fifteen 737-400Fs, and two 757-200Fs), and ACMI-leased (two 737-300Fs, four 737-400Fs, and three 767-200Fs). TNT also operates a 757-200 in combi configuration for NATO on an ACMI basis.

Looking at the bigger players, FedEx, which slightly increased its fleet in 2015/2016, after several years of reduction, added a net of twenty units in the last twelve months, bringing its total jet freighter fleet to 364. The overall change was the result of twenty-six additions and six retirements.

FedEx completed its planned 119-unit 757-200F fleet with the addition of nine units, and also continued the renewal of its widebody fleet, adding thirteen 767-300Fs and three 777Fs – the latter transferred from the former TNT Airways fleet. FedEx also brought back into service one parked MD-11F. On the retirement side of the ledger, the company parked two A310-300Fs and four MD-10-10Fs.

FedEx has seventy-three more 767-300Fs and sixteen more 777Fs on order with Boeing, so the changes in its widebody fleet will continue for some time, but, unless some new plan is put into place, its narrowbody fleet will not change much in the near future.

While other express companies are adding and retiring freighters on a regular basis, UPS is operating almost exactly the same fleet today as it was at this time last year, and the year before. The only changes in the last twelve months were the retirement of one MD-11F and the addition of one 767-300F (operated on an ACMI basis in Europe by Star Air). In addition to its own fleet, UPS uses thirteen 767 freighters operated on its behalf by Denmark-based Star Air, and two 737-400Fs operated by Atran, a subsidiary of Russia-based Volga-Dnepr Group.

However, while the UPS fleet has been stable for several years now, change is coming, as the company recently ordered fourteen 747-8Fs from Boeing, plus three 767-300 P-to-F conversions, also from Boeing.

Unlike DHL (which we will look at in tomorrow’s conclusion of this analysys), FedEx and UPS depend almost entirely on owned aircraft for their jet freighter lift, and they have, by a considerable margin, the world’s largest freighter fleets. Between them, the in-house airline units of these two companies operate over 37% of the world’s freighters – that is, well over one-third of the world’s freighter fleet is owned by just these two airlines.

If you would like to learn more about the impact of e-commerce on the air freight and express industry, join us at Cargo Facts Asia, 25 – 26 April in Shanghai, where two full sessions will be devoted to the subject.

To register, or for more information, visit www.cargofactsasia.com.

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