Qantas Freight will increase its domestic fleet with six Airbus A321 aircraft to meet growing e-commerce demand from its customers. Since the onset of COVID-19, the national carrier’s freight division has seen a step change in cargo volumes driven partly by a structural shift to online shopping.
The six A321 freighters, which are expected to progressively arrive between early calendar year 2024 and mid-2026, will replace the long-term fleet of five Boeing 737 freighters that are approaching the end of their economic life. Each A321 freighter can carry 23 tonnes of cargo, nine tonnes more than the older 737s, and are around 30 per cent more fuel efficient per tonne of freight carried.
The aircraft will be sourced on the open market and converted from carrying passengers to cargo, subject to commercial negotiations. Their model designation is A321P2F, which stands for ‘Passenger to Freighter’. This conversion work will include removing seats and the installation of a cargo handling system.
Qantas currently has three A321P2Fs and replacing the remaining 737 freighters with these newer aircraft will simplify Freight’s fleet, bringing extra efficiency in training and maintenance. Customers are expected to benefit from increased reliability, network flexibility and a net increase in Qantas’ freight carrying capacity.
Qantas is also converting two widebody A330s to freighters, one of which will be used on the domestic network and will continue to supplement its fleet with wet-leased aircraft. Qantas Freight had a record performance in the first half of FY22 due to increased demand for e-commerce, higher international yields driven by supply chain disruption, and reduced capacity on passenger flights. Further detail about Qantas Freight’s performance will be provided at the Group’s full year results on 25 August 2022.
“Qantas Freight plays a vital role in Australia’s supply chain and this investment will grow our operations so they can support increased demand for next-day delivery,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce. “Qantas Freight has been one of the standout performers for the group during the pandemic as Australians rapidly shifted to online shopping. While some of that shift is temporary, demand remains well-above pre-pandemic levels even with the lifting of almost all COVID-related restrictions. This is one of the largest ever investments in our domestic freight fleet, that will enable Qantas Freight to capture more of that demand and will provide the opportunity to help Freight further grow revenue and earnings. The first three A321P2F have been a fantastic addition to our fleet and operating a single-type of narrow body aircraft in the future will enable us to generate further operational efficiencies and significantly reduce emissions per tonne of freight flown.”