Boeing Co. has landed a deal from FedEx for 24 cargo aircraft worth $6.6 billion as the revival in the air freight market keeps growing.

The package-hauler plans to add 12 of Boeing’s medium-size 767 freighters and 12 of the larger 777 cargo aircraft to its order book, the Chicago-based planemaker said in a statement on Tuesday.

Air freight demand is expected to increase 4 percent this year, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Last year was the best for cargo since 2010, with traffic growth more than doubling to 9 percent, three times the growth in capacity.

FedEx orders

The Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx has been using new aircraft orders to replace aging freighters, such as its three-engine McDonell Douglas MD-11s, to improve fuel efficiency and reliability without adding much capacity to its air cargo fleet, said Chief Operating Officer David Bronczek on a conference call with analysts.

He also said that it may change as demand for air freight begins to grow.

“We’ve added very few incremental planes along the years here,’’ he said. “On the other hand, if we continue to see strong growth like we’re seeing now we could use them to add capacity.’’

FedEx's order comes nearly four months after rival United Parcel Service Inc said it had ordered 14 additional Boeing 747-8 cargo jets.

After languishing for much of the decade, global air shipments rebounded strongly last year, spurred by online shoppers and strong trade. The trend has provided a new lift to Boeing’s wide-body jet line-up, where freighter models include the 767 and jumbo 747 jetliners.

Moreover, recent fears of a potential trade war between the U.S. and major trading counterparts – including China, the European Union, and Canada – have raised concern that the air cargo recovery could falter. Indeed, the most recent monthly data released by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) indicates a slowdown.


A FedEx Boeing 767 seen landing into the runway at Changi International Airport on July 19, 2017.

New Popularity

Last month, Boeing announced plans to increase annual output of the 767 by 20 percent to 36 planes by 2020. The aging jetliner is gaining new popularity as a midsize freighter favored by the likes of Amazon.com Inc. and FedEx.

That would be the third increase in the monthly production rate since early 2016 for a jetliner best known for opening transcontinental travel to twin-engine jets in the 1980s.

The deal for the new aircraft will be added to Boeing’s orders and deliveries website once “certain contingencies” have been met, Boeing said. FedEx already is awaiting deliveries of 53 of the 767 freighters and 6 of Boeing’s 777 cargo planes. The planes are headed to FedEx Express, the company’s main package delivery business, which flies freight planes all over the world.

The 777 freighter has a list price of $339.2 million, while its 767 counterpart sells for $212.2 million. Boeing had already netted 28 orders this year for its factory-made freighters, worth $9.49 billion at list prices before the customary discounts.

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