Philippine LCC Cebu Pacific has signed a deal with Switzerland-based IPR Conversions to convert two ATR 72-500s into freighters.

The turboprops will be taken from Cebu Pacific domestic subsidiary Cebgo, which flies eight ATR 72-500s and 10 ATR 72-600s. The airline told ATW there would be no changes in scheduling because it is taking in more new ATR 72-600s.

The passenger-to-freighter conversions will take place at Sabena Technics MRO facility in Dinard, France, and the airline expects delivery of both aircraft in the fourth quarter this year.

“With the freighter aircraft, we will further support the growing needs of the logistics industry, especially as the Philippines’ e-commerce businesses expand rapidly and look for faster delivery schedules,” Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei said in a statement.

Only one-third of airports in the Philippines, the world’s second largest archipelago, are rated for jet aircraft, and the airline hopes the cargo turboprop can expedite the transport of high-value and time-sensitive commodities. The ATR 72-500 will operate from Cebu’s cargo hubs in Manila, Cebu, Clark, Kalibo, Iloilo, Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

Cebu Pacific holds half of Philippines’s domestic cargo market for which the year-on-year growth for the cargo market has grown from single-digit 3% in 2016, to 29.2% in 2017 and this year Cebu has already chalked up 26% growth for the first quarter of 2018, valued at about PHP1.3 billion ($24 million).

The ATR 72-500 converted freighter can carry up to seven pallets, or seven tonnes, of cargo.

Chen Chuanren, chuanren@purplelightvisuals.com