Qantas Freight is to increase its domestic fleet with six Airbus A321 aircraft to meet growing e-commerce demand from its customers.
The Australian flag carrier’s freight division said it had seen “a step change” in cargo volumes driven partly “by a structural shift to online shopping” since the Covid-19 crisis began.
The six A321 freighters are expected to progressively arrive between early calendar year 2024 and mid-2026. They will replace Qantas Freight’s 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, according to Airbus.
The aircraft will be sourced on the open market and converted from carrying passengers to cargo, subject to commercial negotiations.
Qantas currently has three A321P2Fs and is also converting two widebody A330s to freighters, one of which will be used on the domestic network. The airline will continue to supplement its fleet with wet-leased aircraft.
“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 Group’s 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 narrowbody aircraft in the future will enable us to generate further operational efficiencies and significantly reduce emissions per tonne of freight flown.”