Airbus has defended the slow pace of sales for its A330-200 freighter, insisting the cargo twinjet's business is comparable to the Boeing 767's when the backing of the major freight integrators is discounted.
Customers have ordered 52 of the Airbus type but the airframer had previously secured several more agreements which have gradually been eroded from the backlog.
New freighter marketing manager Oliver von Tronchin says the popularity of the A330's passenger version - particularly in the wake of delays to the Boeing 787 programme - has sapped a number of orders from leasing companies which converted away from the freighter.
He adds that the demise of Flyington Freighters, one of the first customers, also accounted for a large number of cancellations, but points out that the shake-up has left a more robust customer base featuring the likes of Etihad Airways, Malaysia Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
"They know what they're doing with the aircraft," he says. "The total number [of orders] might be lower but it's much stronger now."
The 767 is approaching the end of its life, whereas the A330 is still a mid-life aircraft, he says, claiming there is plenty of business scope to offer carriers an alternative in parts of the world where a "one-size-fits-all" approach is taken and where, for example, Boeing 747s are being "misused" on particular routes.
"We're offering an aircraft with a long-range capability at 70t which is much easier to fill," he says, adding that he expects the A330-200F to attract two or three customers, each ordering two to five aircraft per year.
EADS EFW's plans to convert A330 passenger aircraft into freighters will "open up a new market segment" and "complement" the new-build A330-200F, he claims.
"We've had good discussions with airlines," says von Tronchin. "We're confident of positive news over the coming year."
Airbus's passenger market is "core" while the freight market is "opportunistic", he adds, but the A330-200F could eventually benefit from measures to raise the A330's maximum take-off weight to 240t.