Dubai — Airbus is nearing the announcement of its first A350 freighter orders, anchored by lessor Air Lease Corp. and one other yet-to-be determined cargo carrier, according to people familiar with the company’s planning. The leasing giant is said to be in advanced discussions with the European plane maker to provide the company its first orders for the new freighter.
Air Lease has been at the forefront of Airbus’s two most recent new single-aisle aircraft development programs, including its A321XLR in 2019 and its A321LR in 2015.
Both Boeing and Airbus are riding a wave of demand for dedicated and converted freighter aircraft as the pandemic has sidelined the ample bellies of large twin-aisle passengers used for carrying cargo and a long-term boom in global e-commerce.
Airbus is said to also be in talks with UPS, FedEx Express, and the cargo units of Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa, the latter three being existing A350 passenger operators. The plane maker formally launched the freighter variant of its latest twin-aisle aircraft earlier this year.
Further, Etihad, based in nearby Abu Dhabi, is currently working with Airbus to renegotiate its order of single-aisle A320neo family aircraft, potentially swapping the 26 aircraft for an undetermined number of A350 freighters, the person said. Other possible candidates for launch could be the new merged Korean Air and Asiana Airlines. The latter has 21 existing A350-900 and -1000 passenger aircraft on order and those could be converted to freighters.
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