Qantas said it will convert two of its Airbus A330 passenger aircraft into freighters to support the significant shift towards consumers shopping online.
In a statement, it said one of the converted widebody freighters will be used in Qantas Freight’s international network, while the other will be a new addition to the dedicated fleet that serves Australia Post’s domestic parcel and mail business.
In addition, Qantas Freight will receive its third Airbus A321P2F freighter this week, which will also operate for Australia Post.
Busiest Christmas for air cargo
It said the narrow body aircraft previously operated passenger services for Jetstar.
"The freighter will provide additional capacity ahead of what’s expected to be the busiest Christmas period ever for air cargo," the carrier said.
The seat capacity of the two A330s will be replaced by more efficient scheduling on the Qantas passenger network.
Qantas said it will also take delivery of three new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners during 2022.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the conversion of the two widebody A330 aircraft would significantly increase capacity for both domestic and international freight.
"Our freight business has boomed during the pandemic and while some of that is temporary, COVID has accelerated the permanent expansion of eCommerce and online shopping in this country," Joyce said.
"That's why we're working with key partners like Australia Post to respond to this structural change and increase the amount of parcels that we can carry by air to ensure they arrive to people’s homes as quickly as possible."
"The converted A330 aircraft for Australia Post will be able to carry around 50 tonnes of cargo each flight, more than double the capacity of other freighters operating for the national postal service."
The aircraft will be converted by EFW, a joint venture between Airbus and ST Engineering. Conversion work will include removing seats, replacing the existing cabin door with a larger door and the installation of a cargo handling system.
Qantas said the first A330 aircraft, which will be utilised by Australia Post, will start its conversion in August 2022 and is expected to start operating in mid-2023 with the second to start operating in late 2023.
Paul Graham, chief executive officer and managing director of Australia Post, said the new aircraft will provide an important boost to Australia Post’s existing dedicated air freighter network operated by Qantas, and will enable Australia Post to continue powering eCommerce, supporting Australian businesses and delivering for its customers both domestically and internationally.
E-commerce growth cited
"Australia Post plays a critical role in connecting Australian businesses and communities to each other and the rest of the world, and this has never been more evident than through the global pandemic where e-commerce has grown by more than 76% when compared to just two years ago," Graham said.
"The two A321PTF aircraft already in the skies, and the third taking off this month, provide our network with critical additional capacity and flexibility, while also improving the sustainability of our air freight operations, as they can carry twice as many parcels and require less fuel per kilo of mail and parcels uplifted."
"We are thrilled to have these new aircraft in our network as we prepare to deliver the biggest Christmas in Australia Post history," he added, noting that last December, Australia Post delivered a record 52 million parcels and uplifted over 7.4 million kilos of air freight.
"We fully expect to eclipse these volumes this year," Graham added.