As we reported in mid-August, Air China Cargo (a 50/50 joint venture of Air China and Cathay Pacific Airways) placed a firm order with US-based Precision Conversions for passenger-to-freighter conversion of four 757-200s. At the time, the carrier said it planned to put the four freighter-converted 757-200PCFs into service for express package transportation in China, but did not elaborate. We said we expected Air China Cargo would likely operate the new freighters for one of the existing express companies, and this week the carrier confirmed that speculation with the announcement of an agreement with China Postal Airlines.
Under the agreement, Air China Cargo will operate four 757-200PCFs on behalf of China Postal, with the first to enter service before the end of this year, and all four to be in service within two years. The four 757-200s to be converted will come from Air China’s fleet, and the first (29793) is already in conversion at TAECO’s Xiamen facility. Air China currently operates four other 757-200s in passenger configuration (27258, 27367, 27511, 29792) but we do not know which three will be selected for conversion.
Rapidly-expanding China Postal Airlines (a joint venture of China Post and China Southern Airlines) currently operates eight 737-400Fs, and ten 737-300Fs, mostly in domestic service, but also to South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. It also recently acquired five 737-300s from Shandong Airlines and will have them converted to freighter configuration. However, with express mail (EMS) volume skyrocketing in China, the need for larger freighters has become more pressing, and the 757-200PCFs will allow for better alignment of capacity and demand.
Related correction: In last night’s issue of Cargo Facts Update, we noted a report from fleet-tracking service ch-aviation indicating that Air China Cargo had also agreed to operate a 747-400F for China Postal Airlines. However, ch-aviation has since informed us that their report was in error. (Given the rate at which demand for EMS is increasing, it wouldn’t surprise us to hear that China Postal wanted to use a 747-size freighter on a couple of its major routes, but for now they are staying with narrowbody 737s and 757s.)