Just a few days ago, we posted news that Shanghai-based YTO Express had launched an international expansion program, the main cost of which, according to company VP Hao Wenning, “will come from buying aircraft to strengthen air freight services.” Our discussion in that post centered on YTO’s likely need for widebody aircraft to support the planned international expansion, but, just because it is looking to expand into Europe, Asia, and the Americas does not mean YTO has put domestic growth on the shelf.
Just the opposite, in fact. An incorrect news story recently broke that YTO had done a deal with Boeing that will see the manufacturer acquire “more than ten” 757-200s from the American Airlines fleet, and have them converted to freighter configuration before selling them onward to YTO’s air arm, YTO Express Airlines. However, while Cargo Facts has learned that story is not correct, we have also learned that YTO is in negotiations for up to nine 757s from another source, so the bottom line is still a big 757 purchase.
No timetable has been announced for the deal, but, at whatever rate these 757s join the YTO fleet in freighter configuration, it will be just one part in a massive fleet expansion.
YTO Express Airlines launched service in mid-2015 with three 737-300Fs acquired from Donghai Airlines when that carrier abandoned the cargo business. It has since added two more 737-300Fs, and has another in conversion by PEMCO World Air Services at the STAECO facility in Jinan. In February, YTO placed an order for three more 737-300 conversions with PEMCO, all scheduled for redelivery by the end of the year and, if no other fleet changes are made, the carrier’s fleet will stand at nine aircraft – all 737-300Fs – by the year’s end.
However, that is only the beginning of a plan to up the fleet to fifty freighters by 2020. In addition to the 737-300Fs above, YTO also is a launch customer for Boeing’s 737-800BCF program, with a firm order for ten conversions, plus options for ten more. Further, Cargo Facts has learned that YTO may be close to acquiring five 737-300Fs from other carriers.
And then there is its 757 freighter ambition. As mentioned above, YTO is reported to be close to a deal with for nine 757s, but Cargo Facts believes it may also have acquired (or be in the process of acquiring) five 757s from the current China Southern Airlines fleet.
Add all these acquisitions up, and the total is at least thirty-eight freighters
- Fourteen 737-300Fs
- Ten 737-800BCFs (and up to ten more)
- Fourteen (more or less) 757-200PCFs
All of these could reasonably be expected to join the fleet before the end of 2020, and, given that YTO itself announced its intention to launch international service, it must be planning to add widebody freighters as well.
So the “Fifty freighters by 2020” announcement, which seemed grandiose at the time, may well be right on the mark.