Qatar Airways will add three 777 freighters to its fleet, the carrier announced Monday, speeding up the expansion of all-cargo capacity in the fast-growing Middle East market.
The widebody freighters will join five all-cargo aircraft the airline already operates, including two long-range, twin-engine 777s and three smaller A300-600s in regional cargo service.
“The capacity of the Boeing 777 freighter is unrivalled and its economics make it an attractive addition to our fleet,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker. “It’s an opportune time to be introducing more cargo capacity to our fleet. As the State of Qatar and other parts of the region are growing at a phenomenal pace, we are well positioned to take advantage of this growth.”
Air freight traffic in the Middle East grew 26.7 percent last year, according to the International Air Transport Association, and the region led the world in cargo capacity growth, with 15.7 percent expansion over 2009.
The region’s air freight traffic even withstood the industry downturn in 2009, growing 3.9 percent even as global business fell at a record pace.
The freighter purchase, which also came with orders for two passenger editions of the aircraft, adds to an order book for 777 freighters that has seen 39 of the aircraft delivered in the last three years and a backlog of 44 of the all-cargo planes before the Qatar agreement.
Qatar Airways was the second-largest freight carrier among Middle Eastern airlines behind Emirates, according to the latest IATA figures.