In a major boost to its flagging 747 program, Boeing received a new order for four 747-8 freighters from Atlas Air, the companies announced Tuesday. Boeing, which plans to deliver the airplanes from May through October 2022, expects them to account for the last four 747-8Fs it produces.
Atlas said the aircraft will allow it to meet strong customer demand, particularly in the fast-growing e-commerce and express sectors.
While noting that its business model allows it to either fly the airplanes itself or lease them through its Titan Aviation Leasing subsidiary, Atlas did not specify its plans for these particular machines. The company added that the new 747-8F order will also provide the flexibility to balance future capacity needs with customer demand, as a number of its legacy 747-400F aircraft leases come up for renewal over the next several years.
“This significant growth opportunity will enable us to capitalize on strong demand and deliver value for our existing and prospective customers,” said Atlas CEO John Dietrich. “The efficiency and capability of the 747-8F further complement our longstanding focus on leading-edge technology. Dedicated freighters--like those operated by our Atlas, Polar, and Southern subsidiaries--will continue to be in demand as the global airfreight market, particularly the e-commerce and express sectors, continues to grow.”
Now building 747s at a rate of one every two months, Boeing confirmed in July that it would close its jumbo jet line in 2022.
The deal comes during a period of relative strength for the air cargo industry as the Covid-19 pandemic decimates passenger traffic. Last week the International Air Transport Association reported that freight volumes improved from October to November, even as capacity remains constrained by the lack of available belly space typically provided by passenger airplanes.