Qantas expands freight division to meet online shopping demand

Qantas will expand its freight division with six Airbus A321 aircraft to capitalise on Australia’s demand for online shopping.

The six A321 freighters will arrive between 2024 and 2026 to replace the existing fleet of five Boeing 737 freighters that are nearing retirement.

Each freighter will be able to carry 23 tonnes of cargo, nine more than the expiring 737s, and are 30 per cent more fuel efficient per tone of freight carried.

Qantas Freight has expanded with six A321P2F aircraft. Credit:NSW Health

Sourced on the open market, the aircraft will be converted from carrying passengers to cargo, subject to commercial negotiation, by removing seats and installing a cargo-handling system.

In 2020, Qantas Freight became the first airline to fly an Airbus A321 passenger-to-freighter conversion aircraft for Australia Post.

The airline now has three A321 passenger-to-freight aircraft and is converting two wide-body A330s to freighters, one of which will be used on the domestic network.

Qantas Freight also operates a Boeing 767 and wet leases two Boeing 747s from Atlas Air to connect Australia with international freight hubs.

Wet leasing is when the leasing company provides the aircraft and crew and is largely responsible for the entire flying experience.

Qantas Group chief executive Alan Joyce said Qantas Freight has been a “standout” performer for the group during the pandemic.

“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 [aircraft] 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.”

The terms of the order are confidential. Airbus last listed the A321 passenger model in 2018 at $US118.3 million ($166.1 million). However, list prices are typically discounted by about 50 per cent and this price does not consider the passenger-to-freight conversion.

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