© Gordzam _emirates57374934
© Gordzam

Emirates SkyCargo has confirmed it is to shrink its freighter fleet next year, returning its two leased 747-400Fs.

Citing a poor cargo market, the carrier, which has been struggling to profit from cargo, told The Loadstar: “Emirates SkyCargo can confirm that, with effect from January 2018, it will only operate 13 Boeing 777-F aircraft in its freighter fleet.

“A decision has been made to return the two B747ERF aircraft at the end of their lease term, considering trends in the global freight market.”

The two aircraft will go back to ASL Belgium Airlines, which has leased the two aircraft to the Middle Eastern carrier since May 2016.

The move leaves Emirates without a nose-loading aircraft, a benefit cited by Qatar, when it wet-leased a 747F, as a boon for customers with oversized freight.

The Emirates move is part of a trend that has seen several combination carriers pulling back. Last week, Latam Airlines, which saw cargo revenue fall 16.5% last year, announced its decision to cut a 777F from its fleet, leaving it with one 777F and six 767-300Fs.

Etihad, while adding its tenth freighter, an A330F, this month, has cut some short-term lease capacity provided by Atlas Air.

“Every freighter operator needs to constantly assess which routes are the most financially beneficial,” one airline executive, who recently had to pull capacity out of a market suddenly, told The Loadstar.

“Everyone is doing the same. It’s not rocket science.”

Some have found new markets, however. This week it was reported that SW Italia, which recently gained a 747-400F from parent Silk Way West, yesterday began operating a service between Hong Kong, Baku and Brescia. The service is operated three times a week on behalf of China’s STO Express, a growing parcel and e-commerce-focused carrier.

In other freighter-relevant news, the European Commission is considering relaxing laws which prevent US carriers from wet-leasing to EU airlines for more than seven months.

The regulation led to Atlas Air setting up its 49%-owned subsidiary GSS, so it could lease BA its 747 freighter fleet. The rule change would be welcomed by US carriers – but media reports indicate that Germany is against the proposal.

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