The fast expanding Middle East air cargo market is said by some to be slowing down somewhat and forcing carriers based there to take a new look at their cargo fleets. Qatar Airways Cargo however is review-ing and planning to expand its present cargo fleet.
Scaling back of A330 freighters
At the end of May QR Cargo’s Chief Cargo officer (CCO), Guillaume Halleux was quoted as saying that due to the change in the market situation, that the airline is planning to cut back on their Airbus A330-200 freighter fleet.
This follows on the recent statement by Etihad Airways Cargo that they are temporarily mothballing their five A330 freighters also. But probably for different reasons.
It remains to be seen as to whether the QR Cargo decision is driven by a market changes or is part of an overall cargo fleet restructure. The Doha-based carrier presently operates with 214 aircraft of which twenty-three are freighters. There are eight A330Fs, thirteen B777Fs and two B747-8Fs. The cargo fleet change centres around the A330F fleet. According to the Airbus order book, QR cargo has a further eight A330Fs on order. Whether these will materialise remains to be seen. Leases on three A330Fs presently in the cargo fleet will not be renewed after they run out in 2019. They are going to be replaced by three B777Fs which are on order with Boeing. The B777Fs with their 100-plus ton payload are in the long run more economical than the 50-60 ton A330F payloads.
It is interesting to note Mr Halleux’s observation that the A330Fs are good aircraft for testing out new routes and then allowing them to switch to the higher payload B777F once payloads pick up. It seems then, that QR Cargo is not planning new cargo routes for the time being, hence the scale down of the A3330F fleet.
QR may need government help
The current blockade of Qatar by other Gulf states is starting to eat into Qatar Airways finances. Akbar Al Baker, QR’s CEO, is worried that if the blockade continues for any length of time, that he’ll maybe need to request government assistance in the form of a capital investment. So far, he says, this is not the case.
However, there is no sign of a let-up by the other Gulf states on the blockade which was put into motion in mid-2017. Longer flight routings, resulting in higher costs, are in effect since Egypt, Bahrain, Saudia Arabia and the Emirates have closed their airspace for Qatari registered aircraft. On top of this revenue declines are apparent as Qatar Airways regional flights to the above destinations have also been cancelled.
The carrier can be expected to publish quite a high loss for the coming fiscal year.
John Mc Donagh