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Emirates to buy 777 freighters in deal with Boeing

Airbus adds capacity for A330 cargo conversion program

Emirates operates 11 Boeing 777 freighters (pictured). A new deal would increase the fleet by five aircraft. (Photo: Emirates)

Two transactions on Tuesday will add to the global supply of large cargo jets as airlines continue to invest in fleets to meet projections for growth in air shipping.

Emirates, the fourth-largest air cargo carrier by volume, announced that it will expand its dedicated freighter fleet with the purchase of five 777 freighters from Boeing (NYSE: BA)

The deal is valued at more than $1.7 billion at list prices, but Emirates is expected to get a discount for the multiunit purchase. A Boeing official said the planes will be delivered in 2024 and 2025.

The new aircraft will add to the 11 777 freighters already operated by Emirates SkyCargo, the airlines’ all-cargo division, bringing the fleet to 16 aircraft. At last November’s Dubai Airshow, Emirates announced a $1 billion investment to expand its air cargo capacity, including two new 777 freighters that joined Emirates’ fleet this year.

“This order reflects Emirates’ confidence in air freight demand and overall aviation sector growth,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates’ chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

Emirates also operates nearly 140 passenger variants of the 777. Emirates SkyCargo manages all the cargo carried on the passenger network. 

Meanwhile, Elbe Flugzeugwerke, an Airbus joint venture that specializes in converting used passenger jets into dedicated freighters, said Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering Corp. (Ameco), a large provider of maintenance and overall services for aircraft in China, will provide modification work for A330 aircraft.

Conversions will be carried out at Ameco’s facilities in Chengdu, China, with the first induction of an A330 scheduled next year. 

EFW holds certificates to redesign both the A330-200 and A330-300 for cargo. The A330-300 can carry 69 tons, 2 tons more than the A330-200. 

EFW recently formed a partnership with Turkish Technic for A330 conversions, part of a strategic plan to expand production facilities around the world to meet demand for passenger-to-freighter conversions. EFW also produces A320/A321 converted freighters. 

Conversion activity has been extremely brisk during the past three years, but the cargo market is slowing down amid recessionary conditions in the global economy. The number of conversions is expected to slow down by mid-decade but still be above recent historical averages.

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]