It has been known for years that Cargolux’s shareholders were looking for an investor to take over the 33.7% share formerly held by Switzerland’s bankrupt SAirLines, and that the 2009 purchase of the SAir shares by existing shareholders and the Luxembourg government was a temporary measure. Nor has it been a secret that Qatar was the front runner, so today’s announcement is really no surprise, but it is nonetheless interesting.
Qatar Airways has grown dramatically in recent years, and the acquisition of the Cargolux stake confirms its ambition to become a major force in the air cargo business — Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker has indicated that he expects the two carriers to work together to feed cargo into one another’s operations.
Their combined capacity is already significant, but they also both have a lot of aircraft on firm order. Assuming that Qatar follows through on its plan to have fifteen of its A330 passenger aircraft converted to freighters (we expect an announcement about that at the upcoming Paris Airshow), the combined fleets of Cargolux and Qatar will include 49 widebody freighters and 160 widebody passenger aircraft once all current orders are filled. No doubt some of the oldest freighters (Qatar’s three A300-600Fs, for example) will be retired, and some of the freighter-converted A330s will likely be leased to other carriers, but this will still leave the Qatar/Cargolux combination with immense cargo capacity.