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TNT Airways, the air arm of Netherlands-based express company TNT, is undergoing a major fleet upgrade. The big news is that the carrier has signed a long-term dry lease deal with Guggenheim Aviation Partners (GAP) for three 777Fs, which it will use in its Asia-Europe operations. But this is only the latest move in a series of acquisitions and retirements.
TNT Airways has long operated narrowbody freighters (BAe 146QTs/QCs and 737-300Fs/QCs) and a few A300B4 widebodies to serve the European express market, supplementing its owned fleet with lift leased from a variety of European operators, as required. Other than the A300s in European service, it did not own any widebodies, and relied on the general freight market for its long-haul needs. But three years ago it began a major fleet restructuring:
- The first step was the acquisition of four 747-400ERFs (two of which it currently operates for Emirates on an ACMI basis).
- Then came the decision to ACMI-lease a 767-200F from US-based ABX Air for trans-Atlantic operations.
- Over the past two years the A300B4Fs have been retired
- In mid-2010 TNT finalized an agreement with GECAS for the long-term lease of nine 737-400Fs (to be converted at GAMECO’s Guangzhou facility under IAI/Bedek’s STC), plus two 737-300Fs (to be converted at Bedek’s Tel Aviv facility).
- In the third quarter of this year, TNT agreed to a deal which will see Spain-based Gestair dry-lease two 767-300Fs from Guggenheim Aviation Partners and operate them for TNT on an ACMI basis following conversion by M&B Conversions at Bedek’s Tel Aviv facility. One will operate on the North Atlantic, while the other will operate to the Middle East (and possibly India) from TNT’s hub in Liege. There have been rumors of more 767 freighters in TNT’s future, but at present these are unconfirmed.
- Also in the third quarter, as TNT saw express demand picking up between Asia and Europe, the company signed an agreement to ACMI lease a 747-400F from Atlas Air.
- At the end of the third quarter, TNT reached the above-noted agreement with GAP for three 777Fs, all of which will join the fleet in 2011 (July, September, and November). TNT had originally thought it would acquire 747-8Fs, but eventually came to the conclusion that 777Fs offered a better value proposition.
- Cargo Facts believes, but has not been able to confirm, that TNT will retire its BAe 146 fleet over the next two or three years, presumably as the 737-400s arrive.
So, aside from the 747-8F, is there a Boeing freighter type that TNT will not soon be operating? The only current type not on the above list is the 757-200, but Cargo Facts believes that will soon change. TNT recently signed an agreement to provide airlift of passengers and cargo for NATO, and we suspect that there will soon be at least one combi-converted 757-200 sporting the bright orange TNT colors.