Headwinds and tailwinds in freight market dominance

While cargo demand is expected to continue strong in 2022 and beyond, the race for production freighters is intensifying. And for the first time, the American aircraft manufacturer Boeing is challenged by its European rival Airbus in the domination of the cargo market. And competition to win orders for new production freighter models offered by Airbus and Boeing is picking up fast.

Last year, Airbus introduced the A350 freighter, a large twin-engine wide-body freighter to shape the future of air cargo with the capacity to carry around 109 tons of cargo. Based on the best-selling clean-designed A350, the A350F leverages all the benefits of the A350 to help leading wide-body freighter operators get off to a flying start towards a more sustainable and profitable future.

The A350 family of aircraft benefits from state-of-the-art aerodynamics, optimized from nose to tail and wingtip to wingtip. And to top it off, the A350 freighter brings next-generation efficiency and choice to the large freighter market. The structure uses over 70% advanced materials such as composites, titanium, and modern aluminum alloys to create a lighter, more cost-effective aircraft, while increasing corrosion resistance and reducing maintenance requirements.

At the Dubai Airshow last year, Airbus secured the first commitment for the A350 freighter derivative. Air Lease Corporation has signed a commitment with the European aircraft manufacturer to order seven A350Fs.

Interestingly, Dubai’s order for Airbus freighters was quickly followed by a firm order for four freighters from CMA CGM AIRCARGO, the new cargo airline of French container shipping and transport company CMA CGM. . With this order, the French freight airline will have a total Airbus fleet of nine aircraft, including four A330-200Fs and one A330-200 to be converted into freighter. In September last year, he also placed an order for two Boeing 777 freighters.

With two orders already in place, Airbus was really upping its freighter game and challenging its American rival’s dominance of the freighter market. And in December 2021, Singapore Airlines signed a letter of intent with Airbus for seven A350 cargo planes. The Airbus freighter should enter service in 2025. Two years before what Boeing proposes to put its new freighter into service.

“We are honored by Singapore Airlines’ vote of confidence in the A350F as it renews its freighter fleet. The A350F is the world’s newest large freighter and will be unmatched in its market segment in terms of operational efficiency, reduced fuel burn and CO₂. savings,” said Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of Airbus International.

During the same month, Airbus secured another order for four of its new freighters from Air France-KLM and purchase rights for four additional aircraft.

As part of the most modern long-haul family in the world, the A350F will have a high level of commonality with the passenger versions of the A350. With a payload capacity of 109 tons, the A350F will serve all freight markets. The aircraft features a large cargo door on the main deck, with optimized fuselage length and capacity around industry standard pallets and containers.

“We are certainly pushing Boeing hard to meet our expectations, and the Boeing team is constantly striving to meet and exceed our expectations, which gives us the opportunity to be here today to launch the new cargo plane. most important in a generation.”
Akbar Al Baker, Group Managing Director Qatar Airways

At the Dubai Airshow, Boeing introduced the Boeing 777X family 777-9 test aircraft for its international debut. The same will be on display at the Singapore Airshow later this month. The first delivery of the aircraft is scheduled for late 2023. Reports suggest that with the pandemic ending soon, the first delivery could be delayed by at least a year. That means the proposed freighter version of the 777X, for which Boeing has the world’s largest cargo carrier, Qatar Airways, as a launch customer, could also be delayed from initial commercial entry in 2027.

Boeing says the latest freighter offers the right payload capacity and range along with superior economy. Boeing says the 777-8F is built on the worldwide success of the best-selling 777F and 777X passenger jets that have yet to enter the market. The aircraft manufacturer believes that the higher payload and long-range capability will open up new markets and possibly new customers. With a payload of 112.3 tons and a range of 8,167 kilometers, the new Boeing freighter offers the lowest operating cost per ton for more profit.

Boeing has also ensured that the customer’s announcement of the launch of the new freighter is as spectacular as possible and the aeronautical industry, in particular its European rival, has taken this into account. Boeing chose the White House to make the announcement in the presence of senior US and Qatari government officials. The agreement was signed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chairman and CEO Stan Deal and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker. Al Baker reaffirmed the airline’s commitment to the 777X family with the record-breaking 777-8 freighter contract. The first delivery of the new freighter is scheduled for 2027.

“Today marks a great day in the strong and ever-evolving relationship between Qatar Airways and Boeing. We certainly push Boeing hard to meet our expectations, and the Boeing team is constantly striving to meet and exceed our expectations. , which gives us the opportunity to be here today to launch the most important new cargo aircraft in a generation,” said Al Baker.

“The A350F is the world’s newest large freighter and will be unmatched in its market segment in terms of operational efficiency, reduced fuel burn and CO₂ savings.”
Christian Scherer, Airbus

The White House signing ceremony grabbed headlines as it was in the midst of a bitter legal battle involving Qatar Airways and Airbus over peeling paint and corrosion on the A350 fuselage . Airbus recommended that the jet be sent to its main factory in Toulouse, France, for further investigation, while saying the model was safe to fly. However, Qatar Airways said Airbus failed to provide a full root cause analysis needed to address unresolved questions about the airworthiness of the affected planes, including the lightning protection system.

The dispute took an ugly turn when the carrier released a video on social media of the scarred exterior of grounded A350 planes. Qatar Airways is seeking compensation of $618 million plus $4 million a day and has stopped taking delivery of another 23 A350s. His legal filing detailed how the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) began withdrawing flight permits for individual A350 aircraft in a series of letters from June 2021. He said the QCAA had told Airbus that the aircraft’s deterioration was “worrying, even alarming”.

Airbus, in turn, said it would contest the claim, saying there was “no reasonable or rational basis” for the groundings. What followed was even more bizarre in aviation history. Airbus has canceled a $6 billion contract with Qatar Airways for 50 of its new A321neo jetliners, intensifying the legal battle.

Airfreight industry watchers say Airbus “has finally produced a real freighter”. However, based on the track record of Boeing and other B777 variants, people expect the B777-8F to be a good freighter.

“The A350F has definitely raised the bar in terms of operating economy. I’m sure the B77-8F will match or do better (performance comparison yet to be seen). Airbus seems to have a running edge as it enters service long before Boeing. Given the current skirmish between QR (Qatar Airways) and Airbus, it’s quite understandable that they went with Boeing. It’s a pretty aggressive order and since the B77-8F doesn’t enter in service until 2027, a lot of new orders could replace the old existing fleet,” said Ram Menen, retired air cargo and aviation executive and former head of cargo at Emirates.

Qatar Airways had five Airbus A330-200 freighters in its fleet. As of January 31, 2021, the world’s largest cargo carrier retired all of its Airbus freighters to maintain an all-Boeing freighter fleet. In a previous interview with STAT Media Group, Guillaume Halleux, Chief Officer Cargo, Qatar Airways, indicated the carrier’s intention to maintain a homogeneous fleet.

“We made no secret from the start that the order for five B777 freighters placed at the Paris Air Show in 2019 was to replace and phase out the A330 freighters. This is part of the rationalization of our freighter fleet and a homogeneous fleet for very obvious reasons of optimization and synergy”, declared the head of cargo cargo a year ago.

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