Qantas Freight is heading for its best-ever month in December despite lockdowns having long ended nationwide.
The airline said its network would carry 40,000 tonnes to domestic, regional and international cities, an increase from the same month last year.
Qantas’ executive manager for freight, Catriona Larritt, revealed the business had seen “huge increases in online shopping” since the start of the pandemic.
“In the last few weeks of December, many people super-charge their online shopping sprees to take advantage of door-to-door express deliveries for themselves as well as gifts for family and friends,” she said.
“In the busiest days leading up to Christmas, we’ll carry around 1,200 tonnes of cargo, around double our daily average amount across our freight fleet and in the belly of passenger flights.
“Our domestic services alone will be moving up to 650 tonnes on the busiest nights to help with Santa’s deliveries, equivalent to around 1.3 million iPads.”
It comes after Australian Aviation reported in August that Qantas would purchase six more A321s that it will then convert into freighters to replace its ageing 737s.
Qantas’ freight division already has three A321P2Fs (passenger to freighters) and plans to also convert two wide-body A330s for cargo use.
The six new A321 freighters will progressively arrive from early 2024, with the last touching down in mid-2026.
The aircraft 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 Group CEO Alan Joyce said previously the airline would source the passenger aircraft “on the open market” before 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.”
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 in July welcomed the first of its new fleet of 38 A320 NEOs.
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.