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Tue 3 May 2011 09:39 PM

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Qatar Airways to convert A330s to expand cargo unit

Mideast's second largest carrier says it will convert 15 passenger jets into freighter planes

Qatar Airways to convert A330s to expand cargo unit
Qatar Airways_full

Qatar Airways, the Middle East’s second-biggest carrier, will convert 15 Airbus SAS A330 passenger jets into freighters to expand its cargo unit, CEO Akbar al Baker has said.

The aircraft will be converted by Airbus in Germany by 2016, according to Al Baker. Qatar Air’s dedicated freighter fleet currently comprises three Airbus A300s and two Boeing Co. 777s, with a third on order.

“By 2015 we want to be one of the major players in cargo,” the CEO said, adding that Qatar may also help meet the investment needs of Cargolux Airlines International, Europe’s biggest freight-only carrier, in which it is taking a stake.

The A330 delivery dates will depend on the availability of slots at Airbus’s German conversion plant, Al Baker said.

The carrier’s five-strong freighter fleet, combined with space in the holds of its passenger planes, currently gives a carrying capacity equivalent to 30 cargo planes, he said.

Qatar Air has around 30 A330s and may convert more if there is sufficient demand, while some planes of the same model might go into the carrier’s leasing arm, the CEO said.

The plan to buy a 33 percent stake in Luxembourg-based Cargolux in the next few weeks will “complement and supplement” the Gulf carrier’s own growth planes, Al Baker said.

“Cargolux will feed into our network in places where we don’t go, and vice versa,” the executive said. The airlines may take reciprocal bookings via so-called codesharing and could also operate flights for each other, he said.

“We always had a strategy to expand our cargo since 2004,” Al Baker said, adding that Qatar Airways has had a longstanding interest in Cargolux.

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