Airbus SE said it’s considering adding a large freighter to its lineup, going after rival Boeing Co.’s dominance in a segment that’s boomed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Airbus Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury signaled Thursday the planemaker will look to invest more in cargo planes to become a bigger player. He told Bloomberg Television the company is looking at a wide-body freighter, and hinted this would be an A350.
“We don’t like the idea that we’re not active in that segment and its probably an area where we will be more aggressive and where we will invest,” Faury said. Customers “tell us that they believe that our platforms, and the 350 in particular, would be a very strong candidate for a good freight version.”
While Airbus has established a decisive lead over Boeing in the market for narrowbodies, it’s long lagged behind in bigger, more expensive twin-aisle aircraft that can also be made as dedicated freighters. The pandemic has seen demand for cargo planes grow amid an e-commerce boom, helping Boeing pad deliveries with freight versions of its 777, 767 and outoing 747 jets.
Expanding in that market could help Airbus insulate its widebody programs from the collapse in demand for international passenger travel, while encroaching on a niche its U.S. rival has had almost to itself.
Airbus currently has a passenger-to-freight conversion program, which involves removing seats to make space for cargo, for its A320 and A330 families of aircraft. The company also has an A330 freighter model but has delivered just 38 worldwide, compared with more than 200 deliveries of Boeing’s equivalent 777 freighter.