Atlas 747-8f Air to Air

Atlas Air yesterday issued a fleet update, revealing that it is to acquire a new 747-8F in November, as well as bringing a 747-400BCF back into service from retirement.

The carrier hopes to place the new 747-8F in ACMI operations, but in the meantime it will be used for charters, as will the previously retired 747-400BCF.

The airline also announced that it had acquired a 747-400BCF on a short-term operating lease, beginning at the end of this month. The company said: “This lease is intended to replace a similar aircraft, with a lease that expires this month, on terms that are more favorable to the company.”

In a statement, Bill Flynn, president and CEO, said the market justified the moves.

“We are seeing good demand for airfreight and for our aircraft and services. We are also working closely with our customers to provide them with the most efficient aircraft to meet their needs,” he added.

“As prudent asset managers, our approach to business growth remains disciplined. We have managed our fleet aggressively. And we will utilise proceeds from our recent convertible note issuance to refinance higher cost debt, which will enable us to reduce aircraft ownership costs and increase fleet flexibility.”

Atlas Air also revealed that it had bought two 767s for its Titan dry-leasing subsidiary, which will lease them to DHL Express, after they have been converted into freighters in the fourth quarter.

Titan is also leasing a 757-200F to DHL Express, one which was returned from China Cargo Airlines this month. Cargo Facts reported that it expected the aircraft to be operated by ATSG subsidiary, Air Transport International.

The fleet changes reflect more positive momentum among freighter operators – a confidence currently not reflected in belly carriers. One Europe-based belly carrier executive said the market was tough.

“We don’t benefit from lower fuel prices, as freighter operators do, and yields, margins and demand are falling. It’s not a good situation.”

Atlas is not alone in its confidence. Although not verified by The Loadstar, CH Aviation has reported that Brazilian charter company Colt Aviation is introducing 757 and 737-300 freighters. According to Planespotters,  the carrier had two 737-400Fs delivered in 2013 and is due to receive a converted 737-400F.

CH Aviation also noted that Air Incheon, the oil and gas specialist airline, is to take on a third 737 freighter. However, the cargo-only carrier may be under pressure to retire its existing aircraft after eight South Korean airlines agreed in May that they would no longer operate aircraft that were more than 20 years old – as both Air Incheon’s are. While Cargo Facts noted that there may be exemptions which will allow Air Incheon to keep operating them, this has not yet been verified.

By the end of this year, Atlas expects to have 10 747-8Fs, 23 747-400Fs, as well as 11 aircraft in Titan. In a slide for investors published this month, the carrier noted that it is “significantly increasing out full year outlook” and “looking forward to a strong year”.


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