It seems that whenever two or more air freight industry professionals gather these days, the conversation soon turns to the difficulty of operating widebody freighters profitably in the current overcapacity environment. All-cargo carriers are enduring hard times (see last week’s post on Air Cargo Germany here), and combination carriers are parking existing freighters and deferring delivery of new ones. So it comes as interesting news that Air Algérie is confident enough in the growth of its cargo business to move into the main-deck arena.
And not in a tentative, toe-in-the-water way, but with the addition of a pair of large widebody freighters. The Algiers-based carrier currently operates a 42-unit mixed fleet including A330-200s, 767-300s, 737-800s and -600s, and ATR 72s, but recently confirmed plans to acquire seven more 737-800s as well as seven 787-8s. It also was reported to be planning to acquire two small freighters, but last week on its Facebook page, it announced that the freighters would be two MD-11s, acquired from Ethiopian Airlines.
Yes, it is something posted on a Facebook page, not a formal order signed in public at the Paris Air Show, but with cargo demand growing both into and out of Africa, it makes sense. Ethiopian has not confirmed the deal, but its current widebody freighter lineup of two 777Fs and two MD-11Fs is about to be augmented with four more 777Fs — which will almost certainly render the MD-11Fs surplus to the carrier’s needs.
The two freighters in question are units 48758 and 48780, built in 1997 and 1998 and converted to freighter configuration by Boeing in 2009. Both are owned by Boeing Capital and leased by Ethiopian.