Trends To Watch In Passenger to Cargo Conversions

The interior of an Airbus A321 freighter converted for SmartLynx Airlines of Latvia. The airline expects to have 10 A321 freighters by 2023.
Credit: SmartLynx Airlines

This is a shortened version of an Inside MRO article. You can read the full article here

The projected growth of the global air freighter fleet will favor a newer generation of narrowbody and twin-engine widebody passenger-to-freighter conversions, largely driven by growing e-commerce.

The air freighter fleet will total more than 3000 units by 2039, to accommodate a projected 4.0% revenue ton kilometer annual growth rate, according to the latest Boeing Biennial World Air Cargo Forecast, released in November 2020. Between 2020 and 2039, the forecast predicts 2,430 freighter deliveries, with half as replacements for retiring aircraft. Of the deliveries, more than 60% will be passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversions, of which 72% will be narrowbodies.


Ken Herbert, managing director for equity research at Canaccord Genuity notes the focus currently remains on the Boeing 737-300 and 737-800.

“There was a step down in legacy 737 conversions in 2019, partly due to the MAX grounding,” he notes. Herbert says he does not anticipate a major shift to other models in the near term but does acknowledge a growing market for other conversions. 

Find out more about prioritised freighter conversions here 

Freighter feedstock will be driven by the availability of aircraft at the appropriate residual value level, given the investment required for the P2F process, says Richard Brown, managing director of Naveo Consultancy in London. And, adds Brown, the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to reduce prices of suitable aircraft that would have been too expensive pre-COVID-19, making them attractive candidates.

Mike Andrews, director of cargo conversions at PEMCO Conversions attributes the increase as a rise e-commerce as the “those 737 models are more affordable right now, especially for the smaller operator,” which has led to the establishment of smaller distribution sites. 
In a recent development, in fact, PEMCO Conversions introduced a new combination cargo and passenger aircraft dubbed the 737-700 FlexCombi. 

Learn about the new combination aircraft 

In terms of widebody freighter conversion, as Richard Greener, senior vice president, GECAS Cargo, notes, the 777-300ER offers multiple benefits as a freighter.

“The new freighter’s ability to carry pallets/containers will expand our ability to better serve customers in the air freight market where palletized shipments are the norm, and open new strategic growth opportunities for FedEx,” says Scot Struminger, executive vice president and CEO, aviation, FedEx Express. FedEx Express was scheduled to take delivery in December of the first of 30 ATR 72-600 freighters on firm order—and 20 on purchase options—that ATR has billed as the world’s first purpose-built regional cargo aircraft. 

You can read the article – What is trending in passenger to cargo conversions? By Paul Seidenman and David Spanovich – in full here