Global shipping company FedEx has recently acquired a Boeing 777 freighter from Etihad Airways. The 9.6-year-old freighter, originally delivered to Etihad in June 2011, was handed over to FedEx in the past week but remains parked and will go into operation later this year.
Prior to moving over to FedEx, the Boeing 777 Freighter joined five other 777Fs comprising Etihad’s Cargo division. With the departure of the nearly 10-year-old freighter, Etihad’s 777F fleet now has an average age of just 5.6 years.
In a statement to Air Cargo News, the Middle Eastern carrier said that the move was part of its cargo transformation process over the past two years. This process included streamlining its freighter fleet “to supplement the belly capacity of its passenger fleet with five dedicated freighters.”
Explaining further to Air Cargo News, the airline spokesperson said,
“Since the start of the pandemic, Etihad has deployed Boeing 787-10 aircraft on cargo routes to supplement its fleet of Boeing 777 freighters…The move came as demand spiked given the sharp reduction in belly capacity associated with the reduction of passenger flights. Around three-quarters of Etihad’s cargo is bellyhold capacity, so the addition of 787 passenger aircraft — which provide capacity for 12 lower-deck pallets and four containers — has helped provide additional capacity during this period.”
The aircraft involved in this deal was registered as A6-DDA. It has since been re-registered in the United States as N840FD. The aircraft has Boeing serial number 39682 and line number 939.
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In an email to Simple Flying, FedEx Express confirmed the recent acquisition, saying in a statement:
“The purchase of this aircraft is part of our ongoing fleet modernization plan. The aircraft will go into operation later in CY21.”
The company notes, as per its ‘Statistical books,’ that more 777 freighters will be delivered in the years to come: Five in 2022, two in 2023, one in 2024, and two in 2025. The company’s most recent statistical book showed that no freighters were expected in 2021 – Simple Flying has inquired about this but has yet to receive a response.
In terms of modernizing the fleet, FedEx is planning to retire five McDonnell Douglas DC10-10s and three DC10-30s.
With a significant drop in passenger air travel and a corresponding loss in belly-hold cargo capacity, freighters have seen increased demand. In fact, Air Canada is set to push ahead with the conversion of its old Boeing 767s to freighters.
For Etihad, though, it appears its needs are met through a combination of its five 777Fs and the belly hold capacity of its passenger jets.
What do you think of Etihad’s move to ‘free itself’ of a freighter? Is it losing out on potential business, or is it a smart move to lower its cash burn? Let us know in the comments.