Airbus announced a freight version of the A350 family at the end of last month, prompting significant excitement among the airline industry. The decision to push on with such a product came after extensive pressure from airlines looking to diversify their cargo operations. But which airlines might order this exciting new freighter? Let’s take a look.
The story of the A350 Freighter so far
Last month, on July 24th, Simple Flying reported that Airbus was under strong pressure from airlines to produce a cargo-carrying version of its modern A350 XWB aircraft. Its Executive Vice President and Head of Region & Sales (Europe), Wouter Van Wersch, confirmed at Russia’s MAKS 2021 airshow that the idea was “currently being studied” by Airbus.
The planemaker clearly made good progress with these studies, as it had big news on the subject less than a week later. Specifically, it took the opportunity to launch the A350 Freighter during its latest results presentation. CEO Guillaume Faury confirmed:
“Following board approval, we are enhancing our product line with an A350 freighter derivative, responding to customer feedback for increased competition and efficiency in this market segment.”
Modernizing cargo fleets
So who might want to order such an aircraft? The A350F is certainly an exciting prospect, as Boeing is yet to launch a cargo version of its rival 777X family. Of course, the news from Airbus may yet prompt the US manufacturer to do so. An angle worth considering is cargo airlines with older Airbus freighters that may want to modernize their fleets.
Specifically, the A350 Freighter could be a good replacement candidate for cargo-carrying A330s. Most of these are dedicated cargo aircraft, although Airbus has also converted several examples of both the A330-200 and -300 as part of its P2F (Passenger To Freight) program. The dedicated freighters are rather young, and so not yet ripe for replacement.
Indeed, data from ch-aviation shows that the oldest presently operational A330-200F is just 12 years old, and flying for Turkish Airlines. However, the converted examples are older, with Egyptair’s three A330-200P2Fs all being between 15 and 18 years old.
Meanwhile, ASL Airlines Ireland has two A330-300P2Fs which are over 25 years old that operate for DHL brand EAT Leipzig. Two of Air Hing Kong’s three A330-300P2Fs are also already in their teens. As such, these are the kinds of Airbus freighters that cargo customers may consider worthy for replacement by the A350F when it hits the market.
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Alternatively, Airbus may find that passenger users of the A350 may want to build on their loyalty to the aircraft by also wondering the freighter version. Several key A350 operators have their own cargo divisions. As such, they may appreciate the cross-compatibility of operating the aircraft for both passenger and freight-carrying purposes.
The A350’s largest operators include the likes of Cathay Pacific, Ethiopian Airlines, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, and Singapore Airlines. All of these carriers have dedicated cargo divisions. As such, given the success of the passenger-carrying A350 at these operators, might they be the most compatible destinations for the A350F? Only time will tell…
What do you make of the proposed Airbus A350 freighter? Which airlines do you think will order it? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!