Air Canada

Air Canada to sell, lease back two 767 aircraft for cargo operations

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Executives see opportunity in launching airline’s first dedicated cargo freighter service since the mid-90s.

An Air Canada Rouge Boeing 767 departs Vancouver International Airport in 2019. The airline is selling and leasing back two of the type for cargo operations (Brett Ballah).

Air Canada is selling two of its ageing Boeing 767 aircraft and will lease them back for dedicated cargo operations later this year. The airline is retiring the type from passenger service because of the pandemic.

“Getting these two 767 freighters into our operation in 2021 is aligned with our announcement in November,” said Jason Berry, Air Canada’s Vice President of cargo. “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 airline announced in November that it would ramp up cargo operations. Executives are responding to an opportunity they see in e-commerce. Starting in April, crews removed the seats from seven wide-body aircraft for cargo operations. That lead to almost 4,000 cargo-only flights by year’s end. But the aircraft have limited capacity as freighters. That’s notably due to the strength of the floor, fire suppression systems, and the size of the passenger doors.

Cargo represents a rare area for growth for Air Canada, which this week announced that it would cut 1,000 jobs and dozens of flights. The airline blamed government travel restrictions that have helped suppress passenger traffic.

The airline announced its intention to move into cargo Before the pandemic, Air Canada last operated all-cargo flights in the mid-1990s on Douglas DC-8 aircraft.

Canadian cargo workhorse

A DHL Boeing 767 taxis at Vancouver International Airport January 14, 2021 (Brett Ballah).

Air Canada is sending one 767 for cargo conversion in March and the other before the end of the year. Cargo lessor ATSG is buying the aircraft and leasing them back to the Canadian carrier. The conversion will be done by by Israel Aerospace Industries out of Tel Aviv.

“We are proud to be able to again support a great airline like Air Canada,” said Mike Berger, chief commercial officer of ATSG. “We continue to see growth outside of the United States, and ATSG continues to enable great companies to take advantage of growing global e-commerce and mobile-commerce trends.”

The 767 is the workhorse in southern Canadian cargo operations. Cargojet, FedEx, and DHL all operate the type on cross-country and cross-border flights. The aircraft can carry a payload of almost 57,000 kg.

Many airports are seeing are also trying to seize on the opportunity.

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