LUFTHANSA Cargo is to convert two of its parent airline’s A321 passenger aircraft into dedicated freighters – to provide “fast intra-European connections” targeting customers operating in the e-commerce market sector, writes Thelma Etim.

The new passenger-to-freighter (p2f) units will be available next year and operated on behalf of the German airline’s airfreight division by the Frankfurt-based Lufthansa CityLine – a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Deutsche Lufthansa parent.

The converted aircraft’s newly-installed cargo door means that the A321 p2f is the first aircraft in its size/category to offer containerised cargo loading access on both the main deck – offering up to 14 full container positions – and the lower deck for up to 10 positions, Airbus reveals. “This amounts to a payload-range capability that can carry 28 tonnes over more than 2,300 nautical miles. The A321 p2f is the ideal single-aisle freighter aircraft for express domestic and regional operations,” the European aircraft manufacturer insists. The twin-engine A321 is considered to be one of the most versatile aircraft in its class and enables very efficient continental operations, the plane-maker adds.

Lufthansa Cargo is clearly focused on exploiting the rapid development of the small shipments online shopping niche which has mushroomed across the world during the pandemic. Cross-border shipments are projected to account for 22 per cent of all e-commerce shipments in 2022, according to research conducted by business data platform Statista.“Consumers expect ever shorter delivery times for their ordered goods. This is also increasing the demand for airfreight connections within Europe,” notes a statement.

Commenting on this strategic decision, Dorothea von Boxberg, chief executive of Lufthansa Cargo, recognises that Lufthansa Cargo wants to offer customers in the e-commerce 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,” she says.

“The selected aircraft type can transport 28 tonnes per flight – significantly larger cargo volumes than [available] in the short-haul bellies of passenger aircraft. In addition to forwarders, integrators and postal operators, e-commerce providers will be customers for this offering,” von Boxberg admits.

Steffen Harbarth, managing director of Lufthansa CityLine, states: “With more than 60 years of experience in European air transport [movements], Lufthansa CityLine stands for reliable and efficient operations as an important partner in the Lufthansa Group.

“Flexibility in operations and speed in identifying and implementing new opportunities are the foundation of our business. We want to use these qualities to serve Lufthansa Cargo and its customers,” he adds.

Read more stories here