Air Canada signs up for converted freighters as it targets air cargo

By Damian Brett

Air Canada will sell two passenger Boeing 767s to be converted into freighters before leasing them back as it targets growth in air cargo.

The Montreal-headquartered company will sell two of its B767-300ER aircraft to ATSG-owned lessor Cargo Aircraft Management (CAM).

The first aircraft will be inducted for conversion in March 2021. Both are expected to be redelivered to Air Canada by the end of 2021.

This is the first sale-leaseback agreement between ATSG and Air Canada.

In November 2020, Air Canada announced its plan to use converted freighters to grow its cargo business in response to “evolving opportunities in the airfreight market”.

“Getting these two [Boeing] 767 freighters into our operation in 2021 is aligned with our announcement in November,” said Jason Berry, vice-president of cargo at Air Canada. “We are excited to be in a position to capture the market opportunities that currently present themselves. Delivering on our commitments is critically important to all of us at Air Canada.”

The aircraft will be converted by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) of Tel Aviv, Israel.

“It is always a great feeling to gain a new lease customer and we are proud to be able to again support a great airline like Air Canada,” said Mike Berger, chief commercial officer of ATSG. “We are looking forward to delivering these airplanes and extending our special partnership with Air Canada.

“We continue to see growth outside of the US, and ATSG continues to enable great companies to take advantage of growing global e-commerce and mobile-commerce trends.”

Like most carriers, Air Canada has seen cargo become an increasingly important part of its business as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak as passenger demand droped and cargo revenues increased.

In the second quarter of last year, the airline saw cargo revenues exceed those of passenger revenues for the first time in its history.

Last year, the carrier operated more than 4,000 cargo-only flights.

Meanwhile, the conversion market looks set to take off as carriers look to offload unwanted passenger aircraft and there is increased demand for freighters.

The airline also sent out an update today on how it had been preparing for handling Covid-19 vaccines.

As part of its preparation, Air Canada Cargo said it had finalised agreements with additional suppliers of active, passive and hybrid packages, as well as increased capabilities for pharma handling, by undergoing a thorough review of all stations in its network, including those managed by third parties.

“We are seeing shipments of vaccines and vaccine consumables being transported by Air Canada Cargo for distribution in Canada since December. These shipments are a result of close collaboration with our supply chain partners, and our operational readiness to expertly handle them,” said Vito Cerone, vice president, cargo sales and commercial strategy.

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