When the Covid-19 crisis hit last year, the grounding of airline fleets across the world struck the aviation industry to its core. But in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.

The global roll-out of Covid-19 vaccination programmes has offered hope that the world will soon start flying again, but while domestic and short-haul trips are likely to reach pre-pandemic levels first, long-haul travel may take a little longer to recover.

Boom in cargo demand 

Little wonder, then, that airlines are exploring opportunities created by the crisis and, with Airbus’ help, using their own ingenuity to take advantage of the boom in freight demand.

Now, more than ever, operators are analysing how to optimise their current and future widebody fleets to maximise operational efficiency by carrying more cargo as the world emerges from the pandemic crisis.

Thriving partnership

Foremost in the airlines’ minds is their widebody fleet’s versatility, reliability and sustainability as they look to get through the crisis and thrive well beyond. And Airbus has been working hand-in-hand with its customers to ensure airlines can maximise the use of their widebody fleets throughout the crisis.

“Operators have been working hard to optimise their widebody fleets in these difficult times with the full support of Airbus’ customer services and engineering teams to adapt and certify the cabin decks for cargo operation,” explains Francois Obe, Head of Widebody Marketing Development. “We proudly saw the A350-1000s quickly put to use in repatriation and cargo flights, leading to the opening of 24 new routes for the A350 in a single month last year alone.”

Much-needed air bridges were also quickly established, transporting everything from medical supplies to high-technology products. IAG Cargo, the cargo-handling division of IAG (owner of Iberia, British Airways, Aer Lingus, Vueling and LEVEL), performed nearly 150 cargo-only flights between April and August 2020 using the A350-1000, benefiting from its impressive cargo capacity and outstanding operational reliability of 99.5%.

Asiana Airlines A350 Cargo After Modification Loading

"We proudly saw the A350-1000s quickly put to use in repatriation and cargo flights leading to the opening of 24 new routes with the A350 in a single month in 2020 alone."

Francois Obe, Head of Widebody Marketing Development at Airbus

Speed through design

The A350 Family proved to be the fastest widebody to recover from the initial Covid worldwide aviation downturn, with a fleet utilisation that exceeded 80% in September 2020; the A350-1000 performed even better and soon had a global fleet-use back to 100%.

“The A350’s outstanding efficiency can be directly attributed to its clean-sheet design,” says Francois. “Using innovative structural engineering and lighter, advanced materials, the A350-1000‘s Operating Weight Empty (OWE) is 20 tonnes lighter than its closest competitor it replaces.

“This, combined with unique, cutting-edge aerodynamics and the world’s most efficient large aero-engine from Rolls-Royce, brings an aircraft that delivers an immediate 25% lower fuel-burn while simultaneously reducing operators’ CO2 footprint.”