ANALYSIS: 757-200 approaches its Asian twilight

Singapore
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The Boeing 757-200 is gradually disappearing from Asia Pacific skies, although the venerable type still has a respectable foothold in the long, thin routes prevalent in western China and Central Asia.

At a Boeing media briefing one day before 2014’s Singapore air show, the company’s chief marketer Randy Tinseth gestured toward a powerpoint slide showing Boeing’s product line.

He pointed out that the only gap, between the 737-900ER and 787-8 aircraft, is the slot once occupied by the long-range, narrowbody 757, which went out of production in 2004.

Boeing is quietly studying this space, but it could be years before a 757 replacement emerges – if ever. The challenge is that the 737 and Airbus A320 families have evolved greatly since the 1980s heyday of the 757, and can now perform most of its missions, although they lack its range.

According to the most recent V1Market Commentary produced by Flightglobal’s Ascend Advisory service, Asia Pacific accounts for just 9% of the global 757-200 fleet. North America leads with 70% followed by Europe with 19%.

Asia Pacific 757-200 fleet - 81 aircraft total

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Ascend

Despite the region’s vast distances and scattering of small cities, Asia Pacific operators are moving away from the type.

Overall there are 81 examples in the region serving in all uses – passenger, cargo, and VIP/head of state. Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows that China dominates 757 usage in the region, with 44 examples, followed by Kazakhstan (10), Uzbekistan (6), India (4), and Turkmenistan (4).

757 storage rates in the Asia Pacific are just 15% - below the global average of 20%.

China Southern is the region’s biggest operator with 13 in service examples, all powered by Rolls-Royce RB211s. On 8 April it announced that it wants to sell seven of its 757s.

Highlighting how smaller narrowbodies have chewed into the 757’s mission, in its sales announcement China Southern said bidders could also provide it with leases of either A320 family or 737-800 aircraft.

Air China has placed all five of its 757-200s in storage, and Kazakhstan’s Air Astana is looking to eventually replace its five 757s with A321neos.

FlightMap’s Analytics shows that the type still serves a number of domestic routes in China, namely from Urumqi to cities on the Eastern seaboard, but these are routes that could be served by the 737-800 or A321.

The final bastion for the type are the long, thin routes from Central Asia into Europe, eastern China, and Southeast Asia, but eventually new narrowbodies will claim these routes too.

Long Haul 757 routes by Asia Pacific operators

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FlightMaps Analytics

Given the immense importance of Asia Pacific to the orderbooks of Boeing and Airbus, and the region’s modest share of the global 757 fleet, it would appear that Asia Pacific sales will not be the foremost driver for launching a 757 replacement.

One strong possibility is that the narrowbodies that one day replace the A320neo and 737 Max will include, at the high end, true replacements for the unique 757.