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Qantas expands Australia’s freighter fleet to meet online shopping demands




An aircraft staging crew member cleans an aircraft as Qantas begins preparing and equipping aircraft for returning international flights, pending the easing of Australia’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) border regulations, 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 will add six converted Airbus SE ( AIR.PA ) A321 freighters to its domestic fleet to replace five Boeing Co ( BA .N) 737 and expand capacity to meet an increase in demand from online shopping.

The A321 freighters will be taken from the open market and converted from passenger transport to cargo subject to commercial negotiations, the airline said, adding that the planes were expected to arrive between early 2024 and mid-2026.

The carrier will join three other A321s already in the airline’s domestic cargo fleet and will expand carrying capacity as the A321 can carry 23 tonnes of cargo, nine tonnes more than the 737.

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Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the airline’s cargo division, which reported record first-half profits, was one of the group’s standout performers during the pandemic as Australians switched 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 A321 passenger-to-freighter converter, said last week that demand for the conversion remained strong, with orders for the model booked until 2025.

The lack of cargo capacity of passenger planes during the pandemic caused freight rates to rise, delayed the retirement of older models like the MD-11, and caused lessors to rush to convert older, unwanted passenger planes to freight forwarder. Read more

However, strong cargo demand that helped passenger-starved airlines stay afloat during the pandemic is showing signs of easing 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: Thomson Reuters Fiduciary Principles.




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