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The waning popularity of the Boeing 747-400 has been evident for some time, with oil prices above $100 making the four-engine aircraft a costly option for passenger operators.
But whereas ageing widebodies were traditionally considered ideal targets for passenger-to-freighter (P2F) conversions, structural changes in the troubled air cargo market are now dampening demand. Instead, cargo operators are turning to more nimble narrowbody jets, leaving a growing numbers of widebodies abandoned in storage.
The trend is borne out by statistics. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of parked 747-400Fs spiked from 18 to 42 globally. Despite a wave of retired passenger units entering the secondary market, conversions of all widebody types – also including 767s, MD-11s and Airbus A300s – collapsed from 29 to just 8...