Belly cargo will not impact freighter market: Airbus

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Airbus believes that the share of air freight carried in the belly holds of passenger aircraft will not grow much above 50%, driving more demand for freighter aircraft.

At a recent briefing in Hong Kong, Airbus’s head of market research and forecasts David Prevor said that the share of freight carried in passenger aircraft would grow only marginally above 50% over the next 20 years. That will leave ample room for more dedicated freighter aircraft to handle the projected growth in the industry.

“Belly has some limitations,” he says. “For example, you cannot have a flight leaving in the middle of the night as passengers are not willing to take off at 3:00 in the morning.”

He adds that restrictions on the size of cargo, and the fact that some heavy cargo markets are not large passenger markets will also drive airlines to use more dedicated freighters.

That would be a reversal of current trends, which have seen many carriers – particularly those in the Asia-Pacific region – cut back their fleets of dedicated freighters as rising belly capacity has absorbed most of the limited growth in the market.

President of Taiwan’s Eva Air, Austin Cheung, told Flightglobal Pro in June that the carrier was looking to wind down its fleet of Boeing 747 and MD11 freighters within three years as it focuses on growing its passenger services.

Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific Airways have also parked some of their dedicated freighters in recent years as they deal with overcapacity in the Asian freight market.

Nevertheless, Airbus forecasts that over the next 20 years there will be a need for 871 new-build freighter aircraft, of which 50% will be in the mid-size category. This includes its own A330-200F. Conversions, such as the A330P2Fs, are expected to be available from 2016 onwards.

Flightglobal’s Ascend Online Fleets database shows that there are 24 A330-200Fs in service globally, with a further 16 on order.