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October 4, 2021 10:15 AM, EDT

Leasing Firm Avolon Cuts Deal to Convert Airbus A330s for Cargo

Airbus factory An employee at an Airbus assembly line hangar in Hamburg, Germany, in 2019. (Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg News)

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Jet-leasing firm Avolon Holdings Ltd. will work with Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. to convert 30 Airbus SE wide-bodies for use as freighters, targeting an area in which demand has soared during the coronavirus pandemic.

The A330-300 passenger jets will be converted between 2025 and 2028, according to a statement Oct. 4. It’s the first Airbus project for IAI, which has long converted Boeing Co. jets, the dominant player in the freighter market.

Airfreight has been a rare bright spot for global aviation, as online purchases soar and shipping rates rise. That has fed higher demand for dedicated freighters, which has only intensified with recent global supply chain snarls.

Air cargo revenue is expected to reach $150 billion this year, with traffic doubling over the next 20 years, Avolon said.

Carriers are retiring aging passenger jets, especially wide-bodies, and converting them into freighters as one way to extend their use. At the same time, Airbus has had little success selling new A330s built for cargo use.

Avolon owns and manages 54 A330-300 and -200 jets, according to its website.

The surge in cargo demand has separately prompted Airbus to plan a new freighter version of its bigger A350 by 2025. Boeing is considering a dedicated cargo variant of the coming 777X.

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