European planemaker Airbus (AIR.PA) secured a provisional debut order for seven A350 freighter jets from U.S. leasing company Air Lease Corp (AL.N) on Monday, stepping up efforts to challenge Boeing for a bigger slice of the booming cargo market.
The expansion of e-commerce has accelerated since the global pandemic, while upcoming international rules on plane emissions are putting pressure on freight operators to modernise fleets.
“It is very clear that … e-commerce is a very stabilising factor in the freighter market place and a growing factor,” said Air Lease Chief Executive John Plueger.
A letter of intent for the freighters signed at the Dubai Airshow on Monday also included more than 100 passenger jets: 25 A220-300s, 55 A321neos, 20 A321XLRs and four wide-body A330neos.
Industry sources said the coveted endorsement from one of the powerhouse lessors that drive the $150 billion jet market may have included sweeteners such as some conversions between models and attractive delivery slots for the in-demand A321XLR.
“We are supremely confident with this order, and that we will have more orders in the future,” Air Lease Corp (ALC) Chief Executive John Plueger said.
The order will be finalised in coming months, Airbus said, without giving a value for the deal.
Airbus and ALC also said they would launch a multimillion-dollar ESG (environmental, social and governance) fund initiative that would contribute towards investment into sustainable aviation development projects.
Boeing, which dominates the market for cargo planes, is expected to launch a competing freighter version of its 777X wide-body passenger plane within weeks. It said on Sunday it was in advanced talks with potential customers.