SYDNEY, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Australia's Qantas Airways
said on Monday it would add six Airbus SE A321
converted freighters to its domestic fleet to replace five
ageing Boeing Co 737s and expand capacity to meet a surge
in demand from online shopping.
The A321 freighters will be sourced from the open market and
converted from carrying passengers to cargo subject to
commercial negotiations, the airline said, adding the planes
were expected to arrive between early 2024 and mid-2026.
The freighters will join another three A321s already in the
airline's domestic cargo fleet and expand carrying capacity
given the A321s can carry 23 tonnes of cargo, nine tonnes more
than the 737s.
Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said the airline's freight
division, which reported record first-half earnings, was one of
the group's stand out performers during the pandemic as
Australians 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," he said in a statement.
Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd, a major
converter of A321 passenger planes to freighters, said last week
that conversion demand remained strong, with orders for the
model booked through 2025.
The shortage of passenger plane cargo-carrying capacity
during the pandemic sent freight rates soaring, delayed
retirements of older models like MD-11s and had lessors rushing
to convert older unwanted passenger planes into carrying
However, the strong cargo demand that helped
passenger-deprived airlines stay afloat during the pandemic is
showing signs of softening amid growing economic uncertainty, in
part, fuelled by high inflation.
(Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Himani Sarkar and