Silk Way West Airlines (7L, Baku Heydar Aliev International) has selected the A350F as a type to bridge the gap between the arrival of the last of its five firm-ordered B777-200Fs in 2027 and the start of the deliveries of its B777-8Fs, its president and chief executive Wolfgang Meier explained during an interview with STAT Media.

"When you look at the delivery slots of our five B777-200Fs, the last delivery will be in 2027 and then there will be a gap until the new orders of the B777-8Fs. This gap we're going to fill with new A350Fs. Both aircraft [the A350F and the B777-8F] are really convincing models in terms of fuel efficiency and environmental friendliness," he stressed.

He did not reveal the exact timeline for the deliveries of the B777-8Fs but stressed that Silk Way West Airlines strategically preferred not to be among the early operators of a newly certified type. As the first passenger variant, the B777-9, is expected to enter into service in 2025, Boeing estimates that the freighter variant could be delivered to the launch customer in 2027. As such, the A350F would allow the airline to meet its strategic goal of renewing the fleet without having to wait for the deliveries of the new B777-8Fs.

The Azerbaijani cargo specialist ordered two A350Fs with a further two options in mid-2022, followed by two B777-8Fs also with two options less than half a year later. The A350s will be its first Airbus type.

The ch-aviation fleets module shows that the carrier's current fleet comprises seven B747-400FSCDs, five B747-8Fs, and two out of the five recently ordered B777-200Fs. The airline used to operate two B767-300Fs but retired them by 2015. Meier said that the B747-400FSCDs are slated for eventual retirement.

"We made the strategic decision to modernise our fleet, and as the years go by, we will definitely phase out the -400s. When is this going to happen? This is a tactical question. I would not rule out that we are going to phase out the first -400 during the course of next year, but this depends on the market situation," he said.

The macroeconomic environment for cargo freighters is currently tough, he conceded but added that this does not reflect on Silk Way West Airlines, whose business continues to thrive.