Lufthansa is entering the narrowbody freight market by permanently converting two of its Airbus A321 aircraft into freight-only aircraft. The aircraft will receive cargo doors on the main deck, in addition to the relevant fixtures for cargo to be placed on the floor of the aircraft.
If the pandemic has done one thing for Lufthansa, it has highlighted the importance of freight to the German flag carrier. Right from the word go, the airline began to operate flights without passengers purely to keep cargo moving. The airline was also one of the first to use its passenger aircraft as ‘preighters’.
Two converted passenger jets
Today, Lufthansa revealed that it would convert two of its Airbus A321 aircraft used for passenger operations into dedicated cargo aircraft. The planes will be altered to give them a sizeable container-sized door at the front, allowing access to the main deck.
Initially, Lufthansa has only committed to converting two aircraft. However, the airline is leaving the possibility of further conversions open. A precise timeline for the project hasn’t been given, but the airline did say that the aircraft should be available from the start of 2022. The plan is that they will be based at the airline’s main Frankfurt hub. The airline’s Cityline subsidiary will operate the planes.
Justifying the plan, Lufthansa revealed that it expects cross-border eCommerce shipments to grow by 20% a year for the next five years. This means that the airline is seeing increased demand for freight services on its intra-Europe connections. Pre-pandemic, passenger aircraft played a significant role in this, but these will be operating at a lower level for the foreseeable future.
Commenting on the announcement, Dorothea von Boxburg, CEO of Lufthansa Cargo, commented,
“The selected aircraft type can transport 28t per flight, significantly larger cargo volumes than in the short-haul bellies of passenger aircraft… Lufthansa Cargo wants to offer customers in the eCommerce segment fast intraEuropean connections. With the converted A321s, we are meeting our customers’ growing demand for same-day solutions…”
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The Lufthansa A321 fleet
According to data from ch-aviation.com, Lufthansa has 73 Airbus A321 aircraft. This is split between 20 -100s, 43 -200s, and ten A321neos. Earlier today, Simple Flying looked at the remaining A321neos set to go to the German flag carrier.
Lufthansa hasn’t said which variant the freighters will come from, though it will almost certainly be the airline’s older aircraft that have already made their money’s worth on passenger services. With this in mind, the airline would likely look to use the -100 fleet.
These are some of the oldest aircraft in the entire Lufthansa Group fleet, ranging in age from 22.76 years for the youngest, D-AIRY, to 28.01 for the oldest, D-AIRH. Ch-Aviation only lists five of the 20 aircraft as active, suggesting that at least two would be free to move to cargo operations.
What do you make of Lufthansa’s Cargo Airbus A321 plans? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!