Russian airlines expand 737 freighter services

ATRAN Airlines

Russia’s ATRAN Airlines has expanded its express cargo services to China with the addition of a weekly flight between Moscow and Shijiazhuang airports to handle e-commerce orders.

Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, is smaller than Beijing and Tianjin to the north but has benefited as e-commerce suppliers expand to second-tier cities. Online orders from Russia have significantly increased this year because people have few opportunities to shop in stores amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

ATRAN said the pullback of most passenger flights and associated belly capacity as well as stable contracts with customers contributed to the increase in e-commerce volumes.

ATRAN, a subsidiary of Russian air cargo conglomerate Volga-Dnepr, launched its first express flight from Moscow to Shijiazhuang on Saturday, transporting 15 tons of e-commerce packages. The carrier said it will operate the flights with Boeing 737-400 and 737-800 freighters.

ATRAN’s express network in China includes Xi’an, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Urumqi and Zhengzhou.

Russia’s S7 Airlines

In related news, GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) said it will lease two 737-800 converted freighters to Russia’s S7 Airlines. The move marks the first time S7, which markets the belly space of passenger flights to cargo shippers, will manage all-cargo aircraft.

Narrow-body 737-800 freighters, with a cargo payload of 24 tons, are particularly suited for short-haul, regional flights.

S7 will use the freighters on routes with strong demand where there is limited capacity in the baggage holds of passenger aircraft. The cargo jets will increase the carrier’s capacity by 30%, CEO Ilya Yaroslavtsev said in a press release. 

GECAS said it expects to deliver the planes in November and January.

On Wednesday, GECAS reached a deal with Boeing (NYSE: BA) to convert 11 737-800 passenger planes to freighters, with options to convert an additional nine, bringing total confirmed orders to 60 since the conversion program began in 2016.

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Click for FreightWaves/American Shipper articles by Chris Gillis.