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Lufthansa extends old MD-11 freighters, uses pax fleet for cargo only

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Lufthansa Cargo is reportedly considering retaining its six Boeing MD-11F freighters beyond their planned exit in 2020.

This highlights the strength of demand for full freighters in the current crisis, which has blocked most passenger flights and the belly space they offer to cargo loads. Indeed, a much higher share of Europe's freighters are still in service (86%) compared with passenger aircraft (26%).

Specialist cargo airlines dominate European freighter fleets. Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa have the biggest freighter fleets among European airlines with a mainly passenger focus, but are outside the top 10 by total freighter numbers. Among other large European airline groups, only Air France-KLM also has freighters.

Extending the leases on its elderly MD-11Fs would be a lower cost way for Lufthansa Cargo to maintain freighter capacity than replacing them with more modern aircraft. Moreover, they are immediately available.

Several European passenger airlines have been pressing passenger aircraft into use on cargo-only missions. These include Austrian Airlines, SWISS, SunExpress, Wizz Air, Virgin Atlantic and IAG airlines. In spite of their sizeable freighter fleets, both Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines are also adding passenger aircraft to their cargo-only capacity.

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