China Southern to add two 777Fs, a sign combination carriers are hungry for freighters?

Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines, already the country’s largest combination carrier by fleet size, will further expand its freighter fleet next year with the addition of two 777Fs.

After a four-year period during which Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines’ twelve-unit 777F freighter fleet remained stable, growth has returned. China Southern converted an existing order with Boeing for the purchase of two 777-300ERs to the 777F freighter variant, the company announced in a notice that appeared on the Shanghai Stock Exchange today.

Both aircraft will be delivered in 2020. Two additional 777Fs will increase the carrier’s freighter capacity by 1.8%, measured in AFTKs, according to the release.

In addition to the 777Fs, the carrier’s freighter fleet also includes two 747-400Fs, only one of which is currently active – most recently on flights between Vietnam and China. It’s unclear at this point whether the carrier plans to phase out any of its relatively-young 747-400Fs (just under seventeen years in age), but as CZ’s cargo traffic continues to grow, augmentation of the freighter fleet could make sense.

China Southern originally placed the order for eight 777-300ERs back in October 2017 for delivery between 2019 and 2020. The six remaining 777-300ERs in China Southern’s backlog are expected to be delivered over the next two years, according to the terms of the original 2017 purchase agreement.

Might the cargo affiliates of China’s other major combination carriers follow suit and add freighters? The air cargo logistics affiliates of the state-owned behemoths are all in various stages of “mixed-ownership reform” prompted by  China’s National Development & Reform. As the state-owned companies open up to private investment, freighter fleet growth could perhaps follow. Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines’ affiliate, China Cargo Airlines, maintains a freighter fleet comprised of three 747-400Fs and six 777Fs. The carrier has not added any freighters since 2011. Air China Cargo’s fleet, meanwhile, includes eight 777Fs and three 747-400Fs, with the last 777F added to the fleet in 2015.

Those interested in learning more about demand for production freighters in China are invited to join us at Cargo Facts Asia 2019, to be held 15-17 April at the Langham Shanghai. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactsasia.com. Discounted early-bird registration ends today, 1 March.

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