Etihad Airways ordered two more 777 Freighters from Boeing. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier had previously ordered, and taken delivery of, a single 777F, and its Etihad Crystal Cargo division currently also operates two A330-200Fs, and ACMI leases two A300-600Fs from Maximus Air Cargo and two MD-11Fs from World Airways. Adding two more 777Fs, then, is not a surprising move, particularly if the 777Fs replace the MD-11Fs.
However, the big Etihad Cargo news may not be a two-unit freighter order, but a major expansion of its operations through the integration of Maximus Air Cargo into its own fleet. According to a blog post on the Flight Global website, the Abu Dhabi government – which ultimately controls both carriers – is ordering exactly that, with an official announcement expected before year-end. Cargo Facts has no knowledge of the truth of these rumors, but the blog was put up by a respected European journalist, quoting a variety of sources at the recent meeting of the Arab Air Carriers Organization in Dubai.
Maximus operates an interesting mix of freighters. Its roots as a state-owned charter carrier are reflected in its three Il-76s as well as its giant An-124, while its four A300-600Fs (with one more awaiting conversion by EFW) show its more recent move into supporting Etihad and other carriers on an ACMI basis.
Assuming the integration does take place, it is easy to envision the Maximus A300 freighters slotting into regional service in the Crystal Cargo operation, but the fate of the Soviet-era ramp-loaders is unclear. Would Etihad launch an outsize and heavylift department? Spin the heavylift operations out as a standalone? Sell the four freighters?
More questions than answers at this point, but we’d be glad to hear from readers who might have knowledge of the affair.