Sweden-based all-cargo carrier West Atlantic Airlines placed a firm order with GECAS for the lease of four 737-800BCFs. GECAS, a launch customer for Boeing’s 737-800 passenger-to-freighter conversion program, will be the first customer to take redelivery of an -800BCF.
The first of the four aircraft is currently in conversion at the Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services facility, and all four are scheduled for redelivery in 2018 and 2019.
One question that has hovered over the 737NG and A320 Family conversion programs since they were first announced is: How will carriers deal with the higher acquisition/lease and conversion costs of these new types compared to the 737 -300Fs and -400Fs?
West Atlantic says that, while it would have difficulty operating the 737-800BCF profitably on low utilization routes, once utilization passes the 100-hours-per-month level, choosing it is “a no-brainer.” Yes, the lease rate is higher, but, on longer routes the -800BCF offers three compelling advantages:
- Lower maintenance costs
- Lower fuel burn
- Increased revenue from an extra pallet position
In addition to these cost and revenue advantages, the new generation airplanes are less likely to run into the age restrictions imposed by some countries.
So, on some of its typical European routes, West Atlantic will continue to operate its 737-400Fs, but, as it expands outside of Europe, particularly into Southeast Asia, it believes the -800BCF is the obvious choice.
Through its two subsidiary carriers (UK-based Atlantic Airlines and Sweden-based West Atlantic) West Atlantic Airlines currently operates three 767-200Fs, eight 737-300Fs, seven 737-400Fs, twenty-four ATPFs, and two CRJ200Fs. It also has two 737-400s in or awaiting conversion.