European metal part II: Twin-aisle, remove the aisle

Yesterday, part I of “European metal” provided an overview of the narrowbody jet freighter fleet in service with European operators. Part II continues with an overview of the region’s widebody freighter fleet.

Turning now to the widebody freighter fleet in service with European carriers, the region is home to approximately one-fifth of the global freighter fleet but boasts three of the world’s fastest-growing freighter hubs: Baku, Istanbul, and Moscow. Airports in these cities have risen to prominence as they are located at the crossroads between major flows between Western Europe and Asia. The long-haul nature of these trade lanes has favored more technically capable widebody freighters.

The chart at right shows a total of 193 widebody freighters in operation with twenty-three carriers and carrier groups across Europe. Of those carriers, nine have widebody fleets of at least ten freighters.

Looking at the widebody freighter fleet by size-category, the A300-600F is still the most popular medium-widebody freighter in Europe, with thirty-three of the type in service. EFW’s passenger-to-freighter conversion program is nearing an end with just one customer, China-based Uni-Top Airlines, with outstanding orders remaining. Next-generation medium-widebody freighters will gradually begin to replace the A300-600Fs.

In December 2017, DHL took redelivery of the first freighter-converted A330-300F. The first conversion and two others have since been handed over to ASL Airlines for operation on a CMI basis in the Air Hong Kong fleet. DHL has five more A330-300F conversions on firm order with EFW and options for ten more.

DHL has also started introducing another type of A330 variant – in August it was confirmed that DHL Express was to add five ex-Etihad Airways A330-200Fs – complementing the conversions and making it the first major integrator to operate A330 production freighters. DHL’s first A330-200F has already entered service with EAT Leipzig, while three others have already been re-registered and are undergoing maintenance in Germany.

In time, A330Fs operated for or on behalf of DHL Express will become a more common sight. For now, as can be seen from the video below, which highlights overnight operations at DHL’s Leipzig Hub, A300-600Fs are still the backbone of the medium-widebody fleet in DHL’s European freighter network.

In the large-widebody category, the 747-400F (including production and conversion models) occupies the majority (51%) of the large widebody freighter fleet, with fifty-six units in service. The number of 747-400Fs operated by European carriers continues to increase. This year, Azerbaijan-based Silk Way added two 747-400Fs on lease from Aircraft Leasing & Management (both ex-Malaysia Airlines). Next year, Cargolux plans to add three more 747-400ERFs to its fleet.

No European carrier took delivery of a 747-8F in 2018, and the fleet total for this type rests at thirty-one. This number is expected to increase over the next few years as Boeing fulfills a recent order from Volga-Dnepr Group and its UK-based affiliate, CargoLogicHolding. At the Farnborough International Airshow in July, the Group placed a firm order for five more 747-8Fs. No other European carriers have backlogs of undelivered 747-8Fs

Instead, most large widebody deliveries to Europe in the coming years will involve 777Fs. Although there are only twenty-one of the fleet type in service with European carriers today, this number could more than double in coming years, based on recent orders for the freighter.

Most, but not all, of the recent 777F orders were announced at the most recent installment of the Farnborough International Airshow. DHL Express announced an order of fourteen new 777 freighters, with options for delivery of up to seven additional 777Fs. CargoLogicHolding also signed an LOI for up to twenty-nine 777 freighters.

This year also saw 777F orders for Lufthansa Cargo and its JV-carrier, Aerologic. Lufthansa Cargo is expecting deliveries in February and March 2019. Both incoming freighters are expected to replace older MD-11Fs, of which Lufthansa Cargo currently operates twelve. Aerologic, meanwhile, plans to add a 777F on-lease, beginning early next year.

Further east in Istanbul, the 777F is also becoming an increasingly large component to Turkish Airlines’ freighter fleet. In November, Turkish Airlines ordered three additional 777Fs from Boeing. Delivery of the freighters is expected in September 2019, January 2020, and February 2020. The Istanbul-based carrier last placed an order for three of the freighters in December 2017 and took delivery of the second aircraft in that order earlier this month. Delivery of the last outstanding aircraft in that order is expected by the end of the year, which will bring Turkish Cargo’s 777F fleet size up to five. With the new order, Turkish is on track to operate eight 777Fs by the end of 1Q 2020.

Tally note: Not shown in the chart are carriers that lease widebody freighters on an ACMI basis but do not operate any on their own behalf. This includes carriers such as Turkish Airlines, which ACMI-leases A300-600Fs from MNG  Cargo.  For carriers that both operate their own freighters and ACMI-lease additional lift, only the carrier’s own freighters are shown.

Those interested in learning more about the European market for widebody freighters 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

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