Air France-KLM has announced it is confirming its order of four Airbus A350 freighter jets in a bid to respond to rising air cargo demand.
The air freight sector has continued to rise even as travel returns to normal, and it outperformed passenger services throughout the pandemic as demand hits record-breaking lows, and online e-commerce rates rose.
The airline signed a letter of intent in December 2021 for the aircraft, and has now converted it into a firm order, with purchase rights for an additional four jets, according to the company.
“This order embodies Air France-KLM’s determination to strengthen its position on the buoyant cargo business,” said Benjamin Smith, CEO of Air France-KLM.
“The Airbus A350 passenger version has been instrumental to the improvement of our economic and environmental performance, while proving to be a passenger’s favorite.”
Last week, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released its February statistics, showing that global demand for air cargo was 2.9 per cent higher compared to last year.
According to the trade association, air cargo demand was slow in January, but operations ramped up after the February Lunar New Year holiday, and the drop of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
According to the French carrier, the aircraft will operate from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport, its main global hub.
The A350 freighters will complement Air France’s two Boeing 777F jets and will supplement the “belly capacity” of the company’s widebody passenger aircraft.
The European planemaker’s freighter variant of the widebody was launched in November 2021, after years of its American competitor Boeing dominating the cargo market.
Airbus failed to sell a freighter since 2015 before the launch of the A350 freighter and has since had 29 orders and commitments from five customers for the new jet.
Air Lease Corporation, a US aircraft lessor, was the launch customer of the jet after placing an order of seven freighters at the Dubai Airshow last year.
Air France’s order comes with full substitution rights to Airbus A350 passenger aircraft, which is now the new flagship of Air France’s long-haul fleet.
According to the carrier, the company operates a fleet of 505 aircraft. Planespotters shows that the airline operates a wide variety of aircraft, mostly Boeing 737 and Boeing 777 jets.
“Airlines now have a choice, and we salute Air France joining those going for the A350F’s step change in efficiency and sustainability for the cargo operations of the future,” said Christian Scherer, Airbus chief commercial officer and head of Airbus International.
“We are gratified by the wave of early adopters who, like Air France, see the economics and environmental signature of the A350s as standing out versus alternatives, past, existing and future. Merci Air France.”