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Qantas is expanding its Australian freight fleet to meet online shopping demand

Qantas Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane arriving at Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport on July 14, 2022

Mondadori Wallet | Mondadori Wallet | Getty Images

Australia’s Qantas Airways said on Monday it would add six converted Airbus A321 freighters to its domestic fleet to replace five aging Boeing 737s and boost capacity to meet increased demand for online shopping.

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.

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, 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 through 2025.

The shortage of passenger aircraft 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 older aircraft from unwanted passengers in freight transport.

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.

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