By Kalai Raajan
SIA to operate 5 Boeing 777 freighter planes on behalf of DHL Express
Singapore Airlines (SIA) will begin operating five freighter aircraft on behalf of DHL Express by the end of next year, as it aims to expand its presence in the burgeoning air cargo industry. DHL Express, the world’s top international express service provider, has signed a Crew and Maintenance agreement (CM) with the airline to deploy five Boeing 777 freighters.
The initial arrangement will last for more than four years, with the possibility to extend it further. The value of the agreement is undisclosed. This arrangement represents another milestone in DHL Express’ expansion of its intercontinental air network to suit customer demand in fast-growing international express shipping markets.
The freighters will be based at Changi Airport and will serve DHL’s South Asia Hub in Singapore, sporting a dual DHL-SIA livery with DHL and SIA branding. The aircraft will be maintained by SIA, and SIA pilots will fly them on routes to the United States via North Asia.
“With the provision of five Boeing 777 freighters, we can expand our express service between the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas. We are optimistic about growth on the trans-Pacific trade routes after the pandemic subsides. We see working with Singapore Airlines as a unique opportunity to build a long-term relationship with a long-standing partner who shares our values and meets the highest quality standards,” said Travis Cobb, EVP Global Network Operations and Aviation at DHL Express.
The first agreement is for more than four years, with the possibility for an extension; the first aircraft will be delivered in July 2022, the second in October 2022, and the remaining three aircraft will be delivered throughout 2023.
Lee Lik Hsin, Executive Vice President Commercial at SIA, said: “With today’s agreement, SIA and DHL continue to expand their long-standing partnership. These new cargo aircraft will support the fast-growing e-commerce segment, as well as other key business segments that rely on DHL’s world-class express services. In addition, SIA and DHL are paving the way for further expansion of their partnership in the future. The stationing of these aircraft at Changi Airport will strengthen Singapore’s position as a major air cargo and e-commerce logistics hub and contribute to the country’s growth and development.”
SIA’s cargo division flies to more than 90 destinations in its existing network and uses the cargo hold of SIA and Scoot passenger planes in addition to its own fleet of cargo aircraft. The airline has ordered Airbus A350F freighters as part of its fleet renewal program. SIA continues to invest in the expansion of its freight capabilities due to the increasing demand, which is fueled by the growth of segments such as online retail, fresh products, and pharmaceuticals.
“This new agreement guarantees additional capacity on our critical routes out of Singapore, enabling us to keep pace with the continued growth of trade in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Ken Lee, CEO of DHL Express Asia Pacific. He believes that it will also give the firm more flexibility to add new routes and optimize aircraft utilization in response to sudden changes.
DHL Express also continues to invest in its fleet in order to keep up with the steady increase in cross-border, time-sensitive goods. In its global network of 220 nations and territories, the firm flies more than 320 of its own planes. The Boeing 777 is the world’s largest, longest-range, and most powerful twin-engine cargo airplane. This partnership will also help contribute to DHL’s sustainability goals by cutting CO2 emissions by 18% compared to aging B747-400 freighters.
Brendan Sobie of consultancy Sobie Aviation, an independent aviation analyst, stated that SIA has been hauling huge volumes of cargo for DHL using its own fleet of planes. As a result of this deal, SIA will be able to expand a key relationship, he noted. He also stated that since SIA already operates Boeing 777 passenger planes, it has the capability to operate Boeing 777 freighters. He believes that prior to the pandemic, they may not have bid on this work since they did not have enough spare pilots and mechanics.
“But as it will be some time before SIA gets back to full capacity, particularly with their Boeing 777 fleet, they would be incentivized to bid on this contract and provide a competitive offer,” added Mr. Sobie.
It will be interesting to witness how this SIA-DHL cooperation unfolds and where it will lead in the future, similar to DHL’s present partnership with Air Hong Kong.