Qatar Airways goes big in the charter market

Qatar's 777 and A330 freighters have big doors, but not big enough for outsize cargo.
Qatar’s 777 and A330 freighters have big doors, but not big enough for outsize cargo.

Qatar Airways acquired another freighter, this one specifically for use in the rapidly growing project cargo market.

Qatar Airways ACMI-leased a 747-400BDSF (24998) from Turkey-based myCargo Airlines. The term of the lease is three months, after which Qatar will replace the converted freighter with a production 747-400F noseloader, also to be ACMI-leased from myCargo. (We don’t have any pictures of the myCargo 747 freighters, but scroll down and you find a few videos of Qatar Airways cargo operations and aircraft.)

Qatar operates a freighter fleet made up of eight 777Fs and six A330-200Fs, and has eight more 777Fs and two more A330-200Fs on order. So what prompted the decision to acquire a 747-400 freighter?

The carrier said there is strong demand for outsized freight transportation from customers investing in significant infrastructure projects in the Middle East and throughout the world, and “a dedicated charter aircraft will enable Qatar Airways Cargo to satisfy growing demand from our customers for capacity in the ad-hoc charter market.” The key, of course, is that “significant infrastructure projects” often require the transport of items too big to fit through the cargo door on any standard freighter, whereas the production 747-400F has a nose door, allowing much more flexibility in loading outsize cargo.

And as to the question of why lease instead of buy, when Qatar Airways wouldn’t even notice the cost of used 747-400F, the answer lies not in the cost of the freighter itself, but rather of adding a new type to the fleet. Qatar does not operate 747s of any kind, and would not want to set up an entire pilot training program and maintenance capability for a single airplane.

And now, the videos. Starting with a short, but impressive, head-on look at a Qatar 777F taking off at AMS

And the carrier’s flashy new cargo center at Doha’s Hamad International (DOH)

A slightly dated, but still interesting, interview with Qatar cargo boss Uli Ogiermann

And finally, a Qatar Airways Cargo A330-200F taking off from Doha at night.

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