Air freight: Qatar Airways consolidates its position as world leader

Par ediallo - 25 October, 2021 - 07:14

After taking over the number one position worldwide from Emirates, Qatar Airways has consolidated this position for 2020/2021. The year was also used to inaugurate a new service to Lyon.

Qatar Airways has become the world's largest cargo airline (excluding express carriers) over the past two years and has seen its traffic continue to grow in its fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. At 2,727,986 tons, including more than 500,000 tons of medical equipment, growth was 4.6% year-on-year.

This growth is all the more remarkable given that the Covid-19 health crisis has eliminated most passenger flights carrying cargo in the hold. However, the company was able to count on the expansion of its cargo fleet in early January 2021.

On that date, three additional Boeing 777 Freighters were received, bringing the fleet to 24 aircraft. Two more are still on order. This fleet is completed by two Boeing 747-8Fs.

183 all-cargo flights in one day!

To triple its daily capacity at the height of the epidemic - even to the point of operating 183 all-cargo flights in a single day in May 2020 - Qatar Airways has also been able to count on the temporary conversion of six Boeing 777-300ER passengers into cargo aircraft.

Finally, its charter business has implemented more than 1,100 flights falling into this category in FY 2020/2021. They carried more than 53,000 tons of medical equipment and live animals, to name just two examples.

Not surprisingly, the Qatari airline's cargo revenues have soared. They almost doubled year-on-year, from QAR 9.9 million (Qatari riyals) to QAR 18.5 million.

A very positive first year in Lyon

While five weekly Doha-Lyon passenger services were initially planned from June 23, 2020, four all-cargo flights per week were actually set up on the new route from September 17, 2020.

The new service is operated by "preighters", i.e. passenger aircraft temporarily converted into freighter aircraft (Boeing 777-300ER and 787-9, Airbus 350-900 and A330) as well as cargo aircraft. These aircraft are used to fly to Doha, from where the cargo is distributed to 50 destinations in Asia, the Far East and Oceania.

In addition to the marketing of aircraft capacity by the forwarding agent ECS, Qatar Airways can also rely on its regional hubs in Liege and Luxembourg to transport cargo from Lyon to North and South America.

The goods transported include medical equipment, high-tech products and general cargo. Overall, the tonnages transported exceeded 5,000 tons, which represents more than 10% of the traffic at the Lyon-Saint Exupéry hub.

OLIVIER CONSTANT