Carrier evaluates Airbus A300-600F and Boeing 767-300F for its Asian cargo network

Japan Airlines (JAL) is closing on a decision to acquire a small fleet of regional widebody freighters, with the Airbus A300-600F and Boeing 767-300F under evaluation.

Both types are operated in JAL's passenger fleet, but it is likely that the freighters will be new builds rather than conversions, according to Shigeo Akiba, vice-president planning and marketing cargo for the carrier, because JAL is not ready to retire either type from passenger service. However, the airline is believed to be considering conversion of passenger aircraft in the longer term when they are replaced by 787s.

Akiba says a decision on the freighters will be taken "in the next two months", with a fleet of three aircraft planned for flights to Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore – currently served with a Boeing 747 freighter – as well as possibly to Guangzhou and other Chinese destinations. "At the moment, our 747Fs make two or three stops on regional routes, but we would like to operate separate services to each destination, which would be more efficient in operational terms," says Akiba.

Meanwhile, the airline is close to finalising the contract for is previously announced plan to order 30 737-800s and 30 787-3s and -8s. Industry sources say JAL and Boeing are now negotiating a single contract that should be signed by the end of next month.

JAL is expected to then request bids from General Electric and Rolls-Royce for engines to power the 787s. JAL director of corporate planning Kazutoshi Abe confirms the 737 and 787 orders should be finalised "soon" and says an engine selection on the 787 should be made by the end of this year.

Abe says JAL plans to order both 787-3s and 787-8s, but the exact breakdown is still under negotiation. The 787-8s will be delivered from "around 2008" and be used on long-haul international service. The short-range 787-3s will be delivered from "around 2010" and used domestically and possibly on flights to China and South Korea.


Source: Flight International