Guangzhou-based all-cargo carrier Longhao Airlines took redelivery today of its first 737-400F (27916, ex-Japan Transocean Airlines). The PEMCO-converted aircraft redelivery represents the third aircraft the fledgling carrier has imported since the beginning of this year and grows the carrier’s freighter fleet to six units – three of which, not including the 737-400F, are currently active.
For some time now, Longhao has been planning to grow its fleet. Last June, Longhao agreed to lease the 737-400 from Luxembourg-based Vallair. Shortly after announcing the deal, the passenger 737-400 was inducted for conversion to freighter configuration at the GAMECO facility in Guangzhou. Although PEMCO has converted a number of 737 Classics in China, this was the first conversion with touch labor performed by GAMECO – but it may not be the last. Despite a consensus among panelists at this year’s Cargo Facts Symposium that conversions of 737 Classics are entering their “sunset years,” at least one carrier in mainland China is rumored to be considering up to six additional 737-300 P-to-F conversions.
Even though feedstock availability for 737 Classics in mainland China is quite low, that is no longer an issue of great concern for operators in the country. As the 737-400F on lease from Vallair highlights, provided maintenance records are in order, the CAAC has been willing to allow imports. In February, Longhao agreed to lease two 737-300Fs from GECAS (29108, 29109) and has already put one of the aircraft into service. Longhao has previously told Cargo Facts it expects to have all five of its 737-300Fs and the 737-400F operating before the end of the year.
Looking ahead, Longhao is evaluating further additions to its fleet but has not yet firmed up any commitments. Although Longhao primarily operates flights on an ACMI/charter basis for Shenzhen-based SF Express, the carrier has in recent months developed a cargo sales and marketing team and has started to target opportunities independently of SF.
According to data released this week from the China Air Transport Association (CATA), opportunities for air cargo transport in China are still plentiful. Although domestic air cargo market growth is slowing, international cargo traffic continued to grow at a healthy pace through 2017. Last year, China-based carriers hauled a total of 7.06 million tonnes of cargo, up 5.6% from 2016, according to the association. Domestic routes saw air cargo traffic grow by 1.9%, while international cargo traffic was up 15%.
Those interested in learning more about air freight trends in Europe and afar are invited to join us Cargo Facts EMEA, to be held 4-6 February at The Westin Grand Frankfurt. Register before 14 December to take advantage of early bird rates. To register or for more information, visit www.cargofactsemea.com.