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Sun 1 Jan 2006 04:00 AM

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Qatar Airways grows freighter fleet

Qatar Airways is ramping up its freighter fleet in line with wider plans to grow its cargo business.

Qatar Airways is ramping up its freighter fleet in line with wider plans to grow its cargo business. The carrier has already wet leased two DC-10 freighters, in addition to its own A300-600F, but it is now planning to replace these with Boeing 747s followed by 777s, while adding more –600Fs.

The carrier kicked off it freighter fleet expansion drive in October, when it began wet leasing two DC-10s. These aircraft have allowed the carrier to serve longer haul destinations in Europe and Asia, including Qatar’s first freighter flights into China, but they are only a temporary solution. “The DC-10 is an old freighter and it is really not the freighter we want to use on the long haul runs we are doing currently,” said Bruce Gillette, general manager, cargo, Qatar Airways. “However, it is a good bridge and we have to start somewhere.”

The airline is aiming to replace the DC-10s with wet-leased 747Fs within the next few months. The plan then is for these aircraft to remain in Doha up to 2009, when the carrier may decide to convert the first of the 20 777 orders that it is close to finalising into freighters.

Alongside the widebodies, Qatar is also planning to convert two of its passenger A300-600s into freighters. The first of these is due to be delivered by the end of the year, with the other expected in early 2007. The cargo department will also be able to utilise the bellyholds of the airline’s rapidly growing passenger fleet. As such, freight will become an increasingly large part of the carrier’s overall revenues. “We are currently about 13%, and we want to grow the business to somewhere between 25% and 30% over the next three to five years,” said Gillette.

To fill all of its new capacity, Qatar Airways is adopting a different strategy to other large operators in the region. First of the all, the carrier is planning to work closely with other airlines, including codeshares. The airline will also fly its freighters into less established cargo markets, where it will gain a first-mover advantage.

“I do not want to be one of 1000 carriers that go from Hong Kong to Frankfurt,” says Gillette. “Instead, I would rather go to a secondary market in China, for instance, which is a new emerging market, and be first in class there.”

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