YTO eyes widebodies while ATSG eyes new customers in Far East

Chinese express carrier YTO Cargo Airlines is exploring the possibility of adding widebody freighters that can carry 50-60 tonnes, the airline tells Cargo Facts. This would represent a big step for YTO, which currently operates a fleet consisting of seven 737-300Fs and five 757-200Fs.

Although YTO said that it still hadn’t reached a decision on which aircraft type it would be, the 50-60-tonne requirement can realistically only mean the 767-300, whether the production or converted variant. Even if the A330F were part of the equation, we note that this would be unlikely, given YTO’s all-Boeing fleet and the relative dominance of the 767 in the medium-widebody space that is expected for at least a few more years.

How YTO would go about acquiring 767s is an interesting question to ponder. While Boeing would always welcome new orders for production 767-300Fs, production freighters would be a stretch for the carrier based on the carrier’s relatively low utilization of its current freighters, compared to operators of production 767-300Fs. Feedstock for 767-300 conversions, meanwhile, isn’t exactly easy to come by, with frames quickly being snatched up by ACMI and leasing specialists like Atlas Air and Air Transport Services Group (ATSG), and carriers that operate 767Fs, such as Cargojet.

If widebody conversions are in the cards for YTO, there is nothing that would require the carrier to convert the aircraft on its own. Separate from any known link to YTO, there are signs that carriers in the Asia Pacific region are actively exploring the possibility of leasing 767Fs. During a 2Q earnings call, ATSG was bullish on its ability to place ten freighter-converted 767-300Fs in 2020 with commitments for five aircraft from Amazon, and strong interest from potential new customers as well. Rich Corrado, COO of ATSG, hinted at possible growth with customers in the Far East that fly express networks or on behalf of other companies with express networks. Malaysia-based Raya Airways, which flies for DHL, already leases a 767-200BDSF (22317, ex-ABX Air) leased from CAM, and other carriers could follow.

Returning to YTO, the airline added that over the next year or two it will also focus on bringing in the ten 737-800BCFs it has on order with Boeing. YTO has options for another ten conversions that it has yet to exercise.