SF Express to ACMI-lease a 747-400F from Atlas to expedite launch of trans-Pacific ops

SF Express will launch trans-Pacific freighter operations in October with a 747-400F operated on an ACMI basis by Atlas Air.

Beginning next month, Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings’ Atlas Air subsidiary will operate a 747-400F on an ACMI-basis for Shenzhen-based express carrier SF Express.

Widebody 747F operations represent a monumental step for SF, which historically operated a fleet of narrowbody freighters in a domestic express network. In recent years, the carrier has deployed 767-300BCFs on international routes, and in the fall of 2017, SF purchased two ex-Jade Cargo 747Fs. One of the 747-400Fs was ferried to GAMECO’s maintenance facility in Guangzhou (CAN) last June (35173), while the second unit (35174) remains in storage at PVG. SF Airlines will not be prepared to operate either aircraft by next month, despite immediate demand for trans-Pacific shipments today. ACMI-leasing is, therefore, a logical choice.

The widebody freighter will operate on trans-Pacific routes – and, although city pairs have not been released, Cargo Facts would not be surprised if at least some of the Atlas-operated flights connect China’s East Coast with an airport in the Los Angeles-metro area. In April, Cargo Facts shipped a number of express parcels from China to the United States, one of which was sent via SF Express. We traced the parcel entering the United States via Los Angeles (LAX) and followed the package as it was trucked from Los Angeles (LAX) to Ontario (ONT), where it boarded a Seattle-bound flight operated by UPS Airlines. The last-mile leg of the journey to the Cargo Facts office was once again handled by UPS.

Returning to the ACMI deal, the duration of the agreement was not specified. Time will tell if cooperation between Atlas and SF is a mere stop-gap until SF’s own 747-400Fs are ready to fly, or if the deal is indicative of a long-term partnership between the two companies. Without a history of crewing and operating 747-400Fs, SF could, for example, choose to hand its 747-400Fs over to Atlas to operate on a CMI basis. In recent years, a number of carriers based in Asia, including Nippon Cargo Airlines, Cathay Pacific Cargo, and Asiana Cargo, have incrementally added freighters operated by Atlas on an ACMI-basis. Most recently, Atlas put a second 747-400F in operation for Asiana Cargo.

Learn more about trends in widebody freighter operations 10-12 October at Cargo Facts Symposium, where a roundtable panel discussion will be dedicated to the topic. For more information, or to register, visit www.cargofactssymposium.com.

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