Boeing has announced it has entered into an agreement with YTO Airlines – a Hangzhou-based Chinese express cargo carrier – to provide the airline with 15 B737-800 Boeing Converted Freighters (BCFs) following a planned programme launch for the type. The order was announced during President Xi Jinping’s ongoing visit to the US and delivery dates were not specified.
YTO only just began operations with its maiden flight on 26 September with flights between Hangzhou and Chengdu. YTO acquired its first aircraft – two ex-Donghai Airlines B737-300F aircraft at the end of June – and now has three of the aircraft type. The second and third aircraft are set to be put into commercial operation in November and December.
“We are honored that YTO Airlines has chosen to partner with Boeing as it expands its operations and freighter fleet,” said Rick Anderson, vice president of sales, Commercial Aviation Services. “We are confident the 737-800BCF – with its more advanced avionics, better fuel efficiency and lower operating costs – will provide the airline with a competitive advantage in the marketplace.”
The B737-800BCF offers several advantages over YTO’s existing three B737-300 freighters – they are younger, there is a large feedstock of the type, they offer a higher maximum payload and have a longer range and better fuel economy.
The 737-800 will be the first Next-Generation B737 that Boeing offers for conversion. Through its B737 freighter conversion programne, Boeing said it will support customers in the narrowbody freighter market, a segment of the freighter market growing quickly around the world.
Boeing’s B737 conversion programme is widely seen as a response to rival Airbus’ relaunched plans to offer conversions of its competing A320, forging a partnership with Singapore’s ST Aerospace. Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes previously said the company is looking at an overall market demand for 1,000 narrowbody conversions over the next 20 years, much of which is being driven by China’s surging e-commerce growth.
YTO Airlines is 90 per cent owned by Shanghai YTO Express Investment (Group) Co., Ltd with the carrier providing domestic and international air cargo services focused on the growing e-commerce and express delivery demand in the country.
YTO becomes the third Chinese express company to also own and operate an airline, joining China Post and SF Express. China’s largest private express delivery firm, SF Express launched express services in 2010 in Shenzhen and now operates a mixed fleet of 18 B737Fs and B757Fs, while China Postal Airlines currently operates a fleet of 26, mostly converted, freighters including 12 B737-300Fs, two B737-300QCs, eight B737-400s and four B757-400Fs.