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Qantas snubs Boeing to order six more A321 freighters

written by Adam Thorn | August 15, 2022

Qantas has already taken delivery of what was then the world’s first A321 converted to carry cargo rather than passengers. (Dave Soda)

Qantas is set to purchase six more A321s that it will then convert into freighters to replace its ageing 737s.

The airline said the surprise expansion was due to a long-term change in online shopping habits, spurred on by the pandemic.

Qantas’ freight division already has three A321P2Fs (passenger to freighters) and plans to also convert two wide-body A330s for cargo use.

The news will come as a further blow to planemaker Boeing after it earlier agreed a deal with Airbus to make its narrow-body aircraft the backbone of its future domestic fleet.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said “Qantas Freight has been one of the standout performers for the Group during the pandemic as Australians rapidly shifted to online shopping.


“While some of that shift is temporary, demand remains well-above pre-pandemic levels even with the lifting of almost all COVID-related restrictions.”

The six A321 freighters will progressively arrive from early 2024, with the last touching down in mid-2026.

They can carry 23 tonnes of cargo, nine tonnes more than the older 737s, and are around 30 per cent more fuel efficient per tonne of freight carried.

Qantas said it will source the aircraft “on the open market” before carrying out the freighter conversions, which will include removing seats and installing a cargo handling system.

“This is one of the largest ever investments in our domestic freight fleet that will enable Qantas Freight to capture more of that demand and will provide the opportunity to help Freight further grow revenue and earnings,” said Joyce.

“The first three A321P2F have been a fantastic addition to our fleet, and operating a single-type of narrow-body aircraft in the future will enable us to generate further operational efficiencies and significantly reduce emissions per tonne of freight flown.”

Qantas revealed that its freight division enjoyed a “record performance” in the first half of FY22, which was due to increased demand for e-commerce, higher international yields driven by supply chain disruption, and reduced capacity on passenger flights.

The announcement means almost all of Qantas and Jetstar’s fleet will now be comprised of Airbus, rather than Boeing, aircraft.

In May, it firmed up its order for 20 Airbus A321XLRs and 20 A220-300s to fly its domestic routes and replace its 737s and 717s. The order also includes purchase options for up to 94 additional aircraft through to 2034.

It also confirmed a separate order for 12 Airbus A350-1000 jets to launch its long-awaited Project Sunrise non-stop flights connecting Australia’s east coast cities to major global hubs, including London and New York.

Meanwhile, subsidiary brand Jetstar last month welcomed the first of its new fleet of 38 A320 NEOs.

The airline said it hoped the plane, which is 15 per cent more fuel efficient than its regular A320s, would begin servicing commercial routes in September.

Jetstar will take delivery of a further eight A321LRs between August 2022 and May 2023, with all 18 aircraft expected to be delivered by mid-2024.

A further 20 A321XLR aircraft — an even longer-range variant — will arrive between 2024 and 2029.

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Comments (7)

  • Rod Pickin


    I know Boeing will not be happy but they must realise that their B737 available variants, great that they may be, do not match the versatility and performance of the Airbus alternatives. If Boeing does no change, the results will be the same.

  • ken


    Are you forgetting about the Boeing 787 in both Qantas and Jetstar fleets

  • M.l


    If you look close enough you’ll see the white blank insert.

    Highly doubt they’d change them back to a passenger config

  • Joseph machila


    Airbus is slowly overtaking Boeing in terms of plane quality and safety

  • Craig


    Good income from cargo.
    Sometimes much better than passengers’.

  • Neil


    It would be interesting to know where Qantas are sourcing these 6 Airbus A321 Passenger to freighter aircraft from. Makes sense in bringing in Bigger aircraft to meet demand for increased on-line shopping. It will close another chapter of Australian aviation with the final demise of the Qantas Boeing 737-300 in Australian service. These aircraft were the original workhorses plying domestic passenger Qantas services around Australia, then flying for Qantas Jet connect across the Tasman to New Zealand, in which I can remember travelling on a flight from Melbourne to Wellington. After serving with Qantas Passenger services, some of these planes were converted to Freighters at Avalon Vic.

  • James


    But QANTAS are using older Jetstar A321s for the conversion. As the newer A321s will be replacing these outgoing passenger aircraft, they are also already owned aircraft too.

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