Juneyao Air already adding widebodies, are freighters next?

Juneyao Airlines took delivery of its first 787-9 last October and now operates three of the airframe type. Are freighters next for this Shanghai-based carrier? Photo: Boeing

Last year, Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines added the first of at least five, and up to ten, 787-9s it has on order with Boeing, marking a significant divergence from an operation built around narrowbody operations. Leveraging the bellyhold capacity on the incoming widebody aircraft will define the carrier’s next phase of cargo growth, but further ahead, might freighters be on the horizon?

Hear Stephen Gao, Operations Director, Juneyao Air Logistics Co., Ltd. Speak at Cargo Facts Asia

Even as China’s “big three” carriers reported lackluster traffic results for the month of January, other smaller and more nimble carriers, like Shanghai-based Juneyao Air, are thriving and hungry for growth. Although Juneyao Air’s cargo operations are still growing from a low base, 2018 cargo tonnage jumped 8.25% y-o-y, to 93,000 tonnes as traffic grew 5.4%, to 153 million FTKs. The rate of growth for Juneyao’s cargo operation accelerated moving into 2019 as tonnage increased 37% to 10,300 tonnes on traffic that was up 34%, to 17 million FTKs.

At present, the majority of Juneyao’s cargo business is derived from domestic carriage. Cargo Facts expects this to change as the carrier diversifies its fleet with the addition of ULD-capable widebodies. Since commencing operations in 2006, Juneyao has assembled a sizable narrowbody passenger fleet comprised of seventy A320/321 family aircraft –  most of which operate domestically within China, or to nearby international destinations. In addition to the narrowbodies, three 787-9s have been introduced to the fleet. While in the past, Juneyao was limited to carrying mostly lightweight commodities and express parcels on its narrowbody fleet, a 787 fleet enables Juneyao to cater to the growing cross-border e-commerce market.

Given the capacity limits on Juneyao’s narrowbody fleet, freighter aircraft could make sense for the airline as a next step. At this point, no firm plans to further diversify the fleet beyond passenger aircraft have been announced, but Cargo Facts believes the carrier is evaluating freighters. We note that a Juneyao affiliate, Guangdong Aerocity Holding Co., last year signed an LOI with EFW for ten A320 passenger-to-freighter conversions.

Those interested in hearing more from Juneyao Air and other up-and-coming carriers based in the Asia-Pacific Region 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 1 March.