Airbus Says There Is Significant Airline Pressure for An A350 Freighter

Last month, it was confirmed that Airbus had been in talks with many airlines about a freighter version of the Airbus A350. The European manufacturer is keen to disrupt Boeing’s stronghold on the cargo scene. Now, it looks like airlines are also keen to diversify their options. Airbus’ management has shared further details of the urgency for an A350F.

The Airbus A350 was increasingly used for shipping operations following the transformation across the aviation industry last year – could we see an evolution of this trend? Photo: Airbus

The demand is growing

During the MAKS-2021 airshow in Moscow, Russia, which Simple Flying attended this week, Airbus EVP, Head of Region & Sales Europe Wouter Van Wersch spoke about pressure from carriers to introduce a new freighter option. He highlighted that following the rise of the pandemic, airlines increasingly filled in the bellies of their aircraft with goods and supplies amid the growing demand for cargo and the downturn in passenger activity.

As the global health crisis emerged, commercial airlines has to suspend passenger operations and started to ramp up cargo-only A350 flights. Moreover, the carriers also began to convert some of their units of the type when it became evident that the challenging situation wasn’t going to change anytime soon.

Airbus even revealed ways to help operators use their A350s for cargo operations. Interestingly, conversions could only take as quick as two days.

With some freighter services handling the transportation of crucial supplies around the world, it is vital that airlines can adapt their operations as quickly as possible to meet the needs of global societies. Photo: Airbus

An ever-changing situation

However, passenger demand is now picking up again as many countries relax their restrictions that had absolutely rocked the commercial aviation industry for over a year. Thus, it may not be sustainable to keep filling up A350 bellies following the return of travelers. Ultimately, carriers need to ensure that there is enough capacity.

Ethiopian Airlines is one of several airlines that scaled up its cargo services with the help of the Airbus A350. Photo: Ethiopian Airlines

As a result, carriers are urging Airbus to come up with fresh solutions to meet the new requirements in the industry. Notably, a freighter A350 could be on the cards.

“There is a lot of pressure from customers. They say, “the fantastic aircraft, the A350 – why don’t you launch a freighter version of it?’ So, it is currently being studied by the company.” – Wouter Van Wersch – MAKS-2021.

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Airbus does have existing options for widebody cargo solutions, but it’s considering to expand its provisions. Photo: Airbus

Positive signals across the board

This stance is echoed throughout the company. This week, another Airbus leader, COO Christian Scherer said in a report by FlightGlobal, that his airline is now reacting to the market forces. He adds that there is some wind in the sails towards “seeing the emergence of an A350 freighter.”

A notably potential customer of the A350 freighter is Qatar Airways. Bloomberg notes that this week, the flag carrier of Qatar’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, shared that his company could place a large order for the plane. Alternatively, the firm could go for Boeing’s 777F by this fall.

The Boeing was launched in May 2005 amid a significant demand from airlines across the globe for efficient and high-capacity long-haul cargo builds. Photo: Getty Images

So, with key clients such as Qatar Airways weighing their options, Airbus is further incentivized to speed up the process of studying the freighter. Nonetheless, with such talk happening, and plenty of benefits to be had across the board it’s highly unlikely that the opportunity for Airbus to introduce such an aircraft would be given up on.

Manufacturers are often more cryptic when it comes to the prospects of upcoming aircraft before anything is officially announcement. However, with prominent customers outwardly speaking about their desire to take on new aircraft, Airbus may be sharing details of its ambitions to let the industry know that something is in the works. This process would help give the company some time to finalize plans and allow airlines to not make any rash decisions.

There is an abundance of space on board the Airbus A350, so it would be a great place to store the growing supplies of cargo in today’s climate. Photo: Airbus

The lineup

Airbus does have several options for airlines in its cargo portfolio. When it comes to modern selections, the company has the A321P2F, A330-200F, and A330P2F on offer in regard to cargo versions of its passenger builds. Additionally, the firm has the distinct BelugaST and BelugaXL for larger materials. However, Airbus admits that the A330-200F is the only new-generation cargo plane presently on offer that meets requirements “in the mid-size, long-haul segment.”

Airbus’ Beluga aircraft can be spotted for their unique livery that complement the design of the cargo specialist. Photo: Getty Images

Over 430 A350 planes are currently in action with more than 30 operators. The type has been praised for its long-haul economics since its introduction with Qatar Airways in 2015. The aircraft is quickly becoming a favorite industry, often being dubbed as a new flagship in global fleets.

Qatar Airways’ Airbus A350 aircraft are playing a more prominent role across the continents now that the airline’s A380s are grounded following the impact of the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images

Therefore, it’s only natural that these airlines want a cargo version of the plane to have consistency and familiarity across their operations. The trusted powerhouse has already proven itself in the shipping field without any actual official freighter version. Moreover, the shipping industry is going from strength to strength and is likely to continue its growth throughout the decade. So, there is plenty of potential for the Airbus A350F to do wonders in the long term across the cargo scene.

Altogether, what are your thoughts about the potential of a freighter Airbus A350? Is this something that you think would suit the current climate across the aviation industry? Let us know what you think of the overall prospects of such an aircraft in the comment section.

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