Vietnam Airlines to start freighter unit, convert A321s to cargo jets

Vietnam Airlines plans to send used passenger planes to Air Transport Services Group for conversion into cargo jets as it prepares to create a freighter division and capture more intra-Asia freight growth, said a statement. The small deal is noteworthy on two levels. It is another example of passenger airlines moving more aggressively to take advantage of cargo opportunities triggered by the pandemic. And it reinforces how ATSG, the largest lessor of freighter aircraft, is rapidly expanding its customer base beyond U.S. shores due to demand from express delivery providers with strong e-commerce business. Vietnam Airlines will remove two Airbus A321 narrowbody jets from its passenger fleet and sell them to Air Transport Services Group (NASDAQ: ATSG), which will send them to a specialty facility for conversion into pure freighters capable of carrying large containers on the main deck. Once modifications are completed, ATSG will lease the planes back to Vietnam Airlines, CEO Rich Corrado said on the company’s earnings call with analysts.