Qantas is said to be in negotiations to purchase up to four used Boeing 747-400 Freighters to replace cargo jets it currently leases from US-based Atlas Air.
Qantas’s wet lease for two crewed 747s is set to expire early next with the lease on a third aircraft up in 2015.
The Age newspaper reported that Qantas is in negotiations to buy one of the second-hand freighters for as little as US$60 million, reflecting a steep drop in value for the 747 as fuel prices have soared. Boeing has replaced the 747-400F with the more fuel efficient 747-8F.
Qantas could also choose to renew the existing leases or enter leases with another company, The Age reported. Should it choose to buy the aircraft it would likely transfer them to subsidiary Express Freighters Australia and could hire new pilots. That could be a potential flash point with the airline’s pilots’ union, since Express Freighters pilots earn about half the salary of Qantas pilots.
Qantas carries about five per cent of air cargo shipped between China and the US. Its cargo division made a pre-tax profit of $22 million in the first half of the current financial year, a drop from $38 million a year earlier.
Qantas owns five dedicated cargo planes, including a B767 and several B737s.