Earlier this month Qantas announced plans to introduce the A321 passenger to freighter (A321P2F) conversion aircraft into its fleet. The aircraft is expected to arrive in October of 2020 according to industry sources.
Whilst airline fleets are constantly evolving over time, this aircraft marks a particular milestone. Until now, no aircraft in the A320 family have been converted to freighters. Since the mid-2010’s there have been attempts to launch the passenger to freighter conversion programme however until this announcement no airline had moved it forward. This will be a pioneering step for the aircraft and will pave the way for future conversions and development.
Most importantly though is the increased cargo capacity the aircraft offers in addition to it all containerised layout. EFW, the company leading the conversion, states a structural payload of 27.9 tons which is a significant increase over the 17.3 tons offer by the B737F currently operated by the airline. Also, a prominent advantage is the all containerised cargo layout of the airframe compared the B737F. An all containerised layout offers operational productivity advantages, especially for connectivity, compared to bulk loads.
Source: Qantas, EFW
According to a Qantas press release, the airline will operate the aircraft under an agreement with Australia Post supporting the growing eCommerce trade. Three of the models are set to be introduced into the fleet representing a substantial uplift capacity for the airline and its partners. The unit cost advantages this represents will certainly give an competitive edge over its current fleet and also those of its rivals. Is the aircraft a game changer for the market? It appears so however with most things in aviation, time will be the ultimate decider.