The German cargo carrier will deploy two A321 P2F conversions on pan-European routes. It is the first time that Lufthansa Cargo is adding medium-haul aircraft to the fleet consisting traditionally of long-haul freighters deployed on intercontinental routes. The two midsized A321Fs will be based in Frankfurt and operated by the Lufthansa subsidiary, CityLine, for cost reasons and because cross-border services are a different business model requiring special attention, illustrates a company speaker.
The aircraft will be leased from a so far unnamed lessor and will round off Lufthansa Cargo’s fleet at the lower end. Besides commercial purposes, their use is also a test to see how the market
will react to the additional capacity offer. Should demand be high and meet expectations, a Lufthansa Cargo speaker did not rule out deploying more A321Fs.
Driven by the eCommerce boom…
With the upcoming deployment of the two freighters, Lufthansa Cargo is responding in particular to the booming cross-border eCommerce business, which is forecast to grow roughly 20% p.a. within the next 5 years. “This is also increasing the demand for air freight connections within Europe,” reads a release issued by Lufthansa Cargo.
The Airbus A321 converted freighters offer a payload of 28 tons with a range of 3,500 kilometers. The conversion allows the use of standardized cargo pallets on the main deck as well. The twin-engine Airbus A321 is one of the most versatile aircraft in its class and enables very efficient continental operations. Supposedly, the two aircraft will be converted at Dresden, Germany-based Elbe Flugzeugwerke, but this was not confirmed by Lufthansa Cargo.
The freight carrier’s move is also a reaction to the booming business of its own eCommerce offshoot, heyworld GmbH, offering tailored services to online retailers and forwarders engaged in this business. During the pandemic, heyworld suffered substantially from the collapse of passenger traffic because most of its shipments were transported in the lower decks of intra-European passenger flights operated by Lufthansa. This slowed heyworld's supply chains down – an unacceptable development for a company specializing in the rapid transport of eCommerce items. A spokesman for Lufthansa Cargo indicated to CargoForwarder Global that heyworld in particular would benefit from the A321 freighters once they start operating.
“Lufthansa Cargo wants to offer customers in the eCommerce segment fast intra-European connections. 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,” von Boxberg added.
… and rival CLG
Although Mrs. von Boxberg does not mention it, but by her management’s decision to offer the market air freight capacity on intra-European flights, she also throws the gauntlet down at rival CargoLogic Germany. With its fleet of 4 B737-400 freighters, to be increased to 6, the Leipzig-based company, financed by Volga-Dnepr chief Alexey Isaikin, has meanwhile established itself in the European air transport market. The airline which started its maiden flight in October 2019, is still making a loss, as credible internal sources have confirmed to CargoForwarder Global.
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