Lufthansa Cargo is planning to expand its cargo capacity and is set to add more space for intra-Europe shipments with the introduction of A321 freighter conversions starting next year.
The move comes amidst an ecommerce boom which has seen consumers expecting shorter delivery times for their online purchases and more demand for air freight connections within the region.
Lufthansa plans to convert two A321 passenger aircraft into permanent freighters, which will be operated by its regional unit Lufthansa CityLine. The twin-engine medium-haul aircraft will be modified with large cargo doors to enable the transport of containers on the main deck and will be stationed at Frankfurt Airport once in service.
“With the converted A321s, we are meeting our customers’ growing demand for same-day solutions and further strengthening our dense network of global connections as well as our product offering,” said Dorothea von Boxberg, CEO of Lufthansa Cargo.
“The selected aircraft type can transport 28t per flight, significantly larger cargo volumes than in the short-haul bellies of passenger aircraft. In addition to forwarders, integrators and postal operators, eCommerce providers will be customers for this offering,” she added.
The A321P2F conversions offer a payload of 28 tonnes with a range of 3,500 kilometers. The conversion allows the use of standardized cargo pallets on the main deck as well, making it one of the more versatile aircraft in its class, particularly for continental operations.
Lufthansa Cargo currently has 15 freighters available to transport cargo, including nine B777Fs, two MD-11Fs and four B777Fs with Aerologic.
A spokesperson said the airline will be phasing out two of the remaining tri-jet widebody MD-11Fs in the course of autumn as the airline expects two brand new 777Fs to come in this year.
The airline did not mention who will convert the A321 pax aircraft for cargo use. The A320/A321P2F conversion programme, launched in 2015, is a joint venture between Airbus, ST Engineering and their joint venture Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmbH (EFW). The group delivered the first A321 freighter conversion to launch partner Vallair in September last year, which started flying for Qantas on behalf of Australia Post the following month.
As a result of the pandemic’s impact on passenger travel, some airlines and private jet operators have turned to cargo in an attempt to pivot their businesses and find much needed revenue. Saudi-based private jet operator Aviation Horizon most recently entered the all-cargo market with regional 737 freighter services.