Dresden-based Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH has just finished converting a passenger Airbus A330-300 into a freighter. Nothing unusual about that. What is unusual is the age of the plane. The Airbus aircraft is not yet eight years old.
Former Singapore Airlines Airbus now at DHL
The former Singapore Airlines Airbus, now registered as M-SKAL, went to Dresden last November for conversion. Elbe Flugzeugwerke confirms the plane is the youngest A330-300 to be converted into a freighter.
M-SKAL’s new owner is German logistics business DHL. The aircraft departed Dresden on Tuesday for Lupa in Malta, where it will undergo final prepping before starting to fly for DHL. The A330-300 is due to pick up a new registration; D-AJFK.
With freight demand rising, DHL is increasing its fleet. Conversely, passenger airlines like Singapore are trimming their fleets. The now converted Airbus went to Singapore Airlines factory fresh in December 2013 as 9V-STZ. It left the airline early in 2020 and flew for Hi Fly Malta until November before going to Dresden.
Booming demand for freight drives DHL’s fleet growth
Logistics Trends and Insights’ Cathy Morrow Roberson said on a recent Air Cargo World podcast that big integrated freight companies like DHL have done very well in the last 18 months. With a big expansion into the US, including building new fulfillment centers, Morrow Roberson thinks DHL can be the top freight business globally, knocking rivals like FedEx and UPS off their perch.
“There are going to be more shifts from ocean to air,” says Morrow Roberson. “Hopefully, we will see more capacity entering into the airfreight market.
DHL confirms it recently had its best quarter in over 50 years. E-commerce is booming and expected to continue its upward trajectory. They attribute this to accelerating digitalization of the B2B sector and a significant increase of business purchases on online platforms.
It is a sunny scenario at DHL and very different from most passenger airlines. It is also an indicator of why the demand for passenger to freight conversions is so robust right now. Boeing’s 2020 World Air Cargo Forecast anticipates a significant increase in demand for new and converted freighters with a fleet growth of more than 60% over the next 20 years.
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DHL’s fleet of aircraft keeps expanding
While using various transportation methods, DHL is becoming a big player in the aircraft space. Their fleet is dominated by widebody planes capable of flying big distances. These include a number of Airbus A330s, Boeing 777s, 767s, and even a dozen Boeing 747s.
In May, DHL said it would launch a new pan European airline based in Austria, setting the foundation for its future European airline network. DHL plans to operate intra-European flight services, using a fleet of B757 freighter aircraft transferred from DHL Air UK. In turn, DHL Air UK would develop into its new role as an intercontinental airline, expanding its B767 operations and adding new B777Fs into its fleet.
In January, DHL confirmed an order for eight new Boeing 777 freighters with the first to touch down in 2022. At the time, DHL said the purchase marked a further step in DHL’s expansion of its intercontinental air network.
Like those 777 freighters, the rollout of the converted A330-300 aircraft in Dresden this week marks another step along that path.