The capacity reduction continues…

The recent decision by IAG Cargo to terminate its ACMI leases of three 747-8 Freighters from Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings (via Atlas’ UK subsidiary Global Supply Systems) has led to much speculation about whether Atlas will retire some of its 747-400 freighters if it cannot find new ACMI customers for the -8Fs. But in fact, Atlas had already parked two 747-400BCFs in late December. This may not have anything to do with IAG’s termination of the 747-8F leases, but it does show that Atlas, like IAG Cargo and many other carriers, is cutting back its widebody freighter capacity.


We have written previously about the deep cuts Air France-KLM has made, but AF-KL is not the only one. Just in the last few weeks, we have seen three more 747 freighters removed from the active fleet:


  • Air China Cargo retired a 747-400BCF. This is part of the planned retirement of the carrier’s entire 747 freighter fleet as it transitions to a smaller fleet of 777Fs.


  • Cathay Pacific retired a 747-400F. And more retirements will follow. Cathay recently announced that it intended to operate a twenty-unit freighter fleet made up of fourteen 747-8Fs and six 747-400ERFs. That means that the four remaining -400Fs will soon be departing.


  • SkyLease Cargo is reported to have put a 747-400ERF (leased from ILFC) into storage at Paris Orly (ORY). We have not been able to confirm the status of the freighter, so it is possible that it will return to service at some point.


We will provide a more in-depth look at the widebody freighter fleet in the upcoming February and March issues of Cargo Facts, and those interested in learning more about the cargo operations of Cathay Pacific and Air China Cargo  should join us at Cargo Facts Asia in Hong Kong 1 – 2 April, where senior executives from both carriers will be speaking. For more information, or to register, go to

5 thoughts on “The capacity reduction continues…

  1. hmmm, less trade in terms on quantities/”tonnage” or just ageing fleet? As far as I am aware e.g. Lufthansa is doing well introducing the new 777F.. Maybe all fleet reductions are related to the fleet management according to the demand for transportation services. 

  2. I agree with your last comment that the fleet reductions are a fleet-management issue, rather than an indicator of any cataclysmic “death of air freight.”  There are many drivers (fuel price, belly capacity, etc) and carriers are looking for the best way to move freight but still make a profit.

    And sometimes the words “capacity reduction” aren’t quite accurate. It’s true, for example, that Cathay is reducing the number of freighters in its fleet, but when you compare the capacity of its planned feet if 14 747-8Fs + 6 747-400ERFs, to the fleet that included many -400BCFs and -400Fs, it’s not clear that capacity has gone down.

  3. Yes, it looks  that is more focused on cost reduction by introducing the new 747-8Fs, and make use of older 747 – 400 freighters in more effective way.

  4. @David… Can’t remember how IAG was using the three Atlas -8Fs … but before saying it is a capacity reduction we need to factor in the five Qatar 777F HKG-LHR frequencies added back in to the mix. I will speculate but wonder if Mr. al-Bakar is paying IAG’s lease termination to make room for Qatar’s capacity on behalf of its new OneWorld Alliance partne

  5. Five weekly 777F HKG-LHR rotations with a capacity of about 108 tonnes each is considerably less than 5 weekly 747-8F rotations with a capacity of 140 tonnes each. And there is still the equivalent of between one and two 747-8s left for other routes. So yes, there was a considerable reduction in main-deck capacity. 

    Of course, if they weren’t filling that capacity, or could provide sufficient capacity with the bellies of their 777-300ERs, then it’s money down the drain. Same old problem of trying to balance capacity with demand, keep your customers, and still make a profit.

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