SIA converts passenger plane orders into orders for 7 Airbus A350F freighter planes

The agreement includes a swap with 15 A320neo and two A350-900 passenger aircraft. PHOTO: AIRBUS

SINGAPORE - Flag carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) has converted some of its existing orders for passenger planes into orders for a new freighter aircraft fleet, as part of efforts to manage costs amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

SIA said on Wednesday (Dec 15) that it has signed a letter of intent with Airbus to buy seven A350F freighter planes, with options to order another five planes.

The agreement includes a swap with 15 A320neo and two A350-900 passenger aircraft that are in the SIA Group order book.

SIA did not reveal the costs associated with the deal, noting that it only gives information on capital expenditure in its financial results.

SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong said: "This agreement with Airbus reinforces SIA's position as a leading global air cargo carrier, while advancing our sustainability goals.

"It also ensures that we are prudent with our capital expenditure, and adjusts our passenger aircraft order book to give us the flexibility needed to navigate uncertainties in the recovery trajectory."

SIA will be the first airline to operate the A350F wide-body aircraft after deliveries of the plane start in the fourth quarter of 2025.

The planes will replace SIA's current fleet of seven Boeing 747-400Fs.

SIA said the A350F can carry a similar volume of cargo as the Boeing 747-400F, while using up to 40 per cent less fuel.

The new aircraft can also fly a slightly longer distance, thus offering more flexibility in aircraft deployment.

SIA said renewing its freighter fleet reflects the carrier's continued investment in the air cargo segment.

The move also shows its commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

"Operating a young fleet of modern aircraft is the most immediate and effective way for airlines to materially lower their carbon footprint," said SIA.

"Replacing the 747-400Fs with the A350Fs would cut SIA's carbon emissions by around 400,000 tonnes annually, based on current operations."

Independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie from consulting firm Sobie Aviation said converting the 15 A320neo passenger aircraft orders to the A350F is sensible.

This is so as SIA now has too many narrow-body planes on order given the post-pandemic environment.

He also said that the selection of the A350F to replace the Boeing 747-400Fs is sensible as SIA already has the world's largest A350 passenger fleet, thus creating attractive synergies for its future cargo operation.

"SIA will likely order more A350Fs in future, potentially beyond the five options it has included as part of the initial seven aircraft commitment," Mr Sobie added.

"Cargo revenues and the freighter fleet dropped significantly in the 12 years prior to the pandemic. But there is now an opportunity to grow both again in the post-pandemic era."

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