Airbus is reportedly set to announce a new cargo plane, the A350F, within weeks, Bloomberg reports. The European aircraft manufacturer aims to end Boeing’s monopoly.
For some time, Airbus has been talking publicly about the possible introduction of a cargo version of the popular A350 in view of Boeing’s monopoly in the cargo aircraft market. It now seems that this monopoly is indeed coming to an end. Plans for an Airbus A350F have reportedly been submitted to the Airbus board for approval. By the end of June 2021, marketing of the A350F could start. The first orders might follow as early as next month, and the aircraft could be ready for sale by the end of the year.
The European company has been in talks with airlines for some time about the introduction of the A350F. If enough airlines are interested in a cargo version of the popular long-haul aircraft, the plane could fly by the end of the year. The introduction of an A350F would be a major strategic move for Airbus, which has in its 51-year history built only two cargo aircraft: the A300 and the A330-200F.
Boeing, on the other hand, has built up a monopoly position in the cargo aircraft market. At the moment, the American company still has 760 orders for cargo planes open. “We are looking at that segment very seriously. We think it’s not healthy to have one player on the market. We want to bring our contribution to that market situation,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury earlier this year about the air freight market.
“We don’t like the idea that we are not active in that segment, and that’s probably an area where we will be more aggressive and where we will invest, moving forward.” According to Faury, there is a strong underlying demand for Airbus freighters, especially the A350. An A350F would, in view of market demand, be based on the A350-900 and thus have a strong case for success.
In the context of the coronavirus crisis, the demand for air freight has increased considerably in the past eighteen months. Given the low passenger numbers, cargo is currently even more popular than passenger transport. As things stand now, demand for air cargo is unlikely to decrease significantly shortly after the crisis. An A350F would be efficient, have a high capacity and be able to cover very long distances. The aircraft would compete directly with mainly the Boeing 777F, and in some ways with the 747-8F, which is no longer in production, as well.
The Boeing 777F is one of the most popular cargo aircraft at the moment. The aircraft, introduced in 2009, is known for its reliability and high capacity. However, the technology of the 777s dates back to the 1990s, making it a generation older than the A350’s. According to Airbus, the A350-900, is roughly 30 percent more fuel efficient than the 777-200ER. Although the 777F is based on the 777-200LR, fuel consumption is roughly comparable. An A350F might therefore be able to conquer a large position in the air freight market. Boeing could answer with a possible freight version of the 777X, the successor to the Triple Sevens. However, the passenger version is already plagued by long delays of over three years. Emirates has recently even threatened to refuse the planes if they are not ready on time.