Between 28 December and 11 January, Abu Dhabi-headquartered Etihad Airways removed all five of its A330-200Fs from service, and placed them into storage, according to various flight-tracking databases. While no public announcement has been made regarding the vast reduction in freighter capacity, it is widely believed that the shift away from A330-200 freighter operations is part of a broader restructuring plan to return the carrier to profitability.
Like most of Etihad’s fleet, the A330Fs appear to be a mix of owned and leased aircraft. At this stage, it remains unclear whether another operator has already agreed to assume control of the freighters. Etihad could also choose to resume operating the A330-200Fs on an ACMI-basis for another carrier, much like the arrangement between Malaysian Airlines and Turkish Cargo that surfaced in 2015, when Malaysian began winnowing its freighter fleet. At present, two of the freighters are stored at Al Ain Airport (AAN), while the other three are parked at Abu Dhabi International (AUH).
Few carriers have been able to operate the A300-200 production freighter in a network that fully-utilizes the potential of the aircraft. Etihad has been an operator of the airframe type since taking delivery of its first two A330-200Fs in August and September of 2010. Units three and four were added in 2013 and 2014 respectively, with the fifth and final delivery taking place in February of last year.
The maps below illustrate the varying roles that the 777F, and previously the A300-200F, assumed in Etihad Cargo’s freighter network. Moving forward, Etihad Cargo’s freighter fleet will consist of just five 777Fs. Cargo Facts was unable to reach Etihad for comment regarding how the carrier plans to make up for the capacity reduction, but the carrier will likely try to improve utilization of the bellyspace in its widebody passenger aircraft, which already fly many of the same routes.
With Etihad Cargo no longer operating A330-200Fs, there remain just six carrier groups operating the airframe type (see chart below). Airbus last booked an order for the A330-200F in 2015, and has had a net of minus four orders in the last six years. To date, Airbus has booked a total of forty-two orders for the A330-200F, and delivered thirty-eight, leaving it with a backlog of just four units — of which three are for Turkey-based MNG Airlines, which took delivery of the first of its four orders in 2013, and has not taken another since.
Those of you interested in learning more about demand for medium-widebody freighters are invited to join us at the Mandarin Oriental Pudong in Shanghai 23-25 April for Cargo Facts Asia 2018, where a roundtable panel discussion will be dedicated to the topic. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com