South American carrier Lan has emerged as a possible launch operator for the Airbus A320 converted freighter while TNT Airways also continues to study acquiring new-build cargo versions of the narrowbody.

Lessor Aercap signed up in July as the launch customer of the Airbus Freighter Conversion (AFC) A320 passenger-to-freighter modification programme with an order for 30 conversions. Industry sources told Flight International at this week's Cargo Facts aircraft symposium in Miami that several carriers have since expressed interest in taking the first batch of A320 freighters from Aercap, which will be available from 2012, with Lan in particular having expressed strong interest. Lan Cargo and its affiliate carriers in the USA and Brazil now operate a large cargo network connecting Miami and most of Latin America with a fleet of eight Boeing 767 freighters, and the business now accounts for nearly half of the carrier's revenues.

TNT A321
 © TNT

Lan Cargo chief operating officer Federico Germani confirms the carrier is interested in the A320 converted freighter. "We're always evaluating conversions. That's [the AFC programme] an interesting one," he says. "But there's no commitment yet".

He adds that operating the A320 would make sense for Lan Cargo because Lan Chile and its affiliates in Peru and Argentina already operate A320 passenger aircraft.

Last November Flight International identified TNT as a possible launch customer for AFC conversion, and industry sources say a "green to freighter" (G2F) conversion of new-build airframes is still a possibility for TNT. The carrier prefers the larger capacity A321 but for the first few years of the AFC programme only A320s are expected to be available for conversion.

Peter Bakker, chief executive of express package carrier TNT, confirms it is still studying replacement options for its fleet of Airbus A300s, Boeing 737-300s and BAe 146s, which are used to operate an overnight express package and mail network connecting its Liege hub with 70 destinations throughout Europe. "We're currently reviewing our fleet strategy in Europe," Bakker says.

Source: Flight International