Qantas is replacing two Boeing 747-400F freighters with the larger-capacity 747-8F from July 2019.
The change represents a 20 per cent increase in freight capacity, Qantas announced on Thursday, with the 747-8F able to carry an additional seven pallets compared with the 747-400F.
Currently, the two 747-400Fs are operated by Altas Air on behalf of Qantas. The aircraft, which have Atlas Air livery, operate between Australia, China, New Zealand and the United States, according to flight schedules on the Qantas Freight website.
Atlas Air supplies the aircraft and crew, as well as looks after the maintenance and insurance, under a wet-lease arrangement. Qantas sells cargo space, with the flights operated under the airline’s QF code.
The 747-8Fs will also have the Atlas Air livery and operate under a similar arrangement.
Qantas domestic and freight chief executive Andrew David said the 747-8F would result better operational efficiency and a “more competitive offering in the Australia-China-US freight markets”.
“We are seeing strong growth in demand driven by e-commerce, fresh produce, electronics and mining equipment across our international freight network,” David said in a statement.
“The newer, more efficient Boeing 747-8F will allow us to provide a better service for our customers with additional freight capacity and even greater reliability for time-sensitive shipments.”
Qantas’s 2018/19 half year results published in February showed the airline’s net freight revenue rose 15 per cent to $525 million in the six months to December 31 2018, from $455 in the prior corresponding period.
A slide presentation accompanying Qantas’s half-year results said the improvement came amid “increases in demand for freight forwarding”.
Currently, Cathay Pacific and UPS operate Boeing 747-8F freighter services to Australia. Meanwhile, Korean Air uses the 747-8I passenger variant on its Seoul Incheon-Sydney services at certain times of the year.
Qantas has 14 freighter aircraft in its fleet. The aircraft types include the 747-400Fs, 767-300ERF, 737-300CF, 737-400SF and BAe 146-300QT, according to the Qantas Freight website.
It also sells cargo space on passenger services operated by Qantas and Jetstar.
The airline plans to retire all of its Boeing 747-400/400ER passenger aircraft by the end of calendar 2020.
Atlas Air had taken delivery of 10 747-8Fs according to the Boeing website.
Boeing delivered its first 747-8F to launch customer Cargolux in November 2011.
The program had received 107 total orders at the end of February 2019, with 84 aircraft delivered and an outstanding backlog of 23 aircraft, according to the Boeing website.
Boeing has also delivered 47 of the passenger variant of the 747-8, known as the 747-8 Intercontinental or 747-8I. There are no more orders for this aircraft.
The airframer celebrated 50 years of the 747 program in 2018.