Airbus has promised for the first time a new freighter version of its popular A350 aircraft as the European aircraft manufacturer seeks to challenge the dominance of American rival Boeing in the booming freight market.
According to an agreement announced at the Dubai Air Show on Monday, the American lessor Air Lease stated that it has initially ordered seven wide-body A350 freighters.
The plan includes commitments to a range of other aircraft, including 55 single-aisle A321neos and 20 long-range A321XLRs, because the European group wants to compete with Boeing, which has long dominated the new wide-body freighter market. The American company stated that it provides more than 90% of the world’s dedicated freighter capacity.
Although Airbus’s order is preliminary, it supports the company’s plan to launch a freighter version of its wide-body A350, which was first announced in July.
At the same time, Boeing is expected to launch a competitive cargo version of its 777X jet in the coming months.
As consumers start to go online, both companies are seeking to take advantage of the surge in freight volumes during the pandemic. As passenger planes, which usually carry 50% of air cargo, were grounded during the crisis, the volume of cargo planes increased.
Cargo airlines do their best to fill most of the vacancies, and many airlines convert their jets into temporary freighters or bring back retired aircraft to cope with the soaring demand for personal protective equipment.
With the recovery of the global economy, air cargo volume hit a record high in March this year. Transport delays will only exacerbate the surge in demand.
According to data from the International Air Transport Association, in September, freight ton-kilometers (measured cargo volume) increased by 9.4% compared to the same month in 2019.
The soaring freight rates also make air travel look more affordable. In September, the average price of air cargo was three times that of ocean freight, which was 12.5 times lower than before the pandemic.
Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer said the order “shows that we are getting rid of the downturn of the new crown pneumonia.” Air Lease’s recognition of the A350 freighter “confirms the global enthusiasm for the huge leap forward in the freighter industry.”
Boeing also announced new freighter orders over the weekend. Shipper DHL ordered nine 767-300 modified freighters on Sunday, and Emirates ordered two 777 freighters. The Chicago company said it has received orders for 38 best-selling 777 freighters this year, “related to the continuing demand for air cargo.”
Airbus said over the weekend that it expects industry growth to be boosted, partly because of soaring air cargo demand. It predicts that approximately 2,440 freighters will be needed in the next 20 years, of which 880 will be newly built.
Rob Stallard, an analyst at Vertical Research Partners, said that the A350 freighter is “a must-have for Airbus,” not a “must-have game changer.”
“Compared with the passenger transport market, the new freighter market is very small, but it is never a good thing to have a category monopolized by a competitor-they can use the supernormal profits in this field to subsidize the more competitive part of the portfolio. ,” he added.