Qantas expands Australian freight fleet to meet online shopping demand

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An aircraft-looking crew member cleans a plane as Qantas begins preparing and outfitting planes for the return of international flights, ahead of Australia’s relaxation of border regulations on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

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SYDNEY, Aug 15 (Reuters) – Australia’s Qantas Airways (QAN.AX) said on Monday it would add six converted Airbus SE (AIR.PA) A321 freighters to its domestic fleet to replace five Boeing Co (BA.N) aging 737s and increasing capacity to meet a surge in online shopping demand.

The A321 freighters will come from the open market and be converted from carrying passengers to cargo subject to commercial negotiations, the airline said, adding that the planes are expected to arrive between early 2024 and mid-2026.

The freighters will join three other A321s already in the airline’s domestic freighter fleet and increase transport capacity as the A321s can carry 23 tonnes of cargo, nine tonnes more than the 737s.

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Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the airline’s cargo division, which posted record first-half profits, was one of the group’s best performers during the pandemic, as Australians turned to online shopping.

“While some of this change is temporary, demand remains well above pre-pandemic levels, even with the lifting of nearly all COVID-related restrictions,” he said in a statement. .

Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd (STEG.SI), a leading converter of A321 passenger jets to freighters, said last week that demand for the conversion remained strong, with orders for the model booked until 2025.

The shortage of passenger jet cargo capacity during the pandemic has caused freight rates to skyrocket, delayed retirements of older models like the MD-11s and caused lessors to rush to convert old planes unwanted passengers in freight transport. Read more

However, the strong cargo demand that has helped private passenger airlines stay afloat during the pandemic is showing signs of slowing amid growing economic uncertainty, fueled in part by high inflation. Read more

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Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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