Qatar Airways is looking to in­crease its cargo business significantly and is evaluating the introduction of larger cargo aircraft, including the Boeing 777 Freighter, as well as the 747-400F and MD-11F.

Qatar A300F

The airline has also indicated potential interest in an Airbus A350 passenger variant larger than the 300-seat -900.

The Qatar flag carrier generates around 13% of its total revenue from freight activity – this comprises its belly cargo business as well as its dedicated cargo operation, which constitutes a single Airbus A300-600F. “We are aiming to grow cargo revenue to 27% of the total,” says Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker. He adds that a re-evalation of the airline’s cargo strategy should be completed early next year.

Al Baker says that two of the airline’s A300-600 passenger aircraft are to be converted to freighters and will rejoin the fleet late next year, and the airline is also looking at larger, longer-range widebody freighters.

“We could take some of the 20 777s we are ordering as the freighter version,” says Al Baker. “We are also examining wet-leasing freighters such as the 747-400 and MD-11F for growth,” he adds.

The airline is currently experimenting with larger freighters – two McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30Fs have been taken on short-term wet-leases to cover for a maintenance check on its A300F. “We may decide to extend the leases of these aircraft,” says Al Baker.

Meanwhile, Al Baker has disclosed that Qatar Airways will take “one-third” of the 60 A350s it is ordering as the smaller, longer range -800 version.

He adds that the remainder will be for the larger -900 “or an aircraft bigger than the -900 if Airbus develops one”.

Airbus is known to be studying growth versions of the A350 with longer range to close the range performance gap to the Boeing 787-9 and 777-200ER, as well as a possible stretch derivative.

Qatar Airways is close to finalising its commitment announced at Paris in June for 60 A350s, but is not expected to firm up the deal at this week’s Dubai air show. The airline’s first A350 is due for delivery in the second half of 2010.


Source: Flight International