Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac) is reportedly in talks with over a dozen potential customers for the new A350-based dedicated freighter type and could announce the launch of the programme by the end of the year, multiple sources told Bloomberg.

The European manufacturer will likely seek internal board consent to proceed within the next few weeks, although a formal announcement is not expected until later this year. Airbus hopes to secure a substantial number of commitments by the time the programme formally launches.

The new type will be based on the A350-900 although it could be extended in comparison to the existing passenger aircraft.

Airbus will seek to challenge the current dominance of rival Boeing in the widebody freighter market, particularly given the sunset of the A330-200F production freighter programme. Although the manufacturer has not formally terminated production of the type, it has no more unfilled orders for it as airlines prefer to convert A330-200 or A330-300 passenger aircraft. The ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows that only thirty-eight A330-200Fs were produced. Airlines also operate three A330-200(P2F)s and seven A330-300(P2F)s.

The manufacturer does not currently offer freighter variants of the A350 or narrowbody A220 and A320 Families. Airbus ended the production of the A300 Family freighters in 2007, with the final A300-600R(F) delivered to FedEx Express in July 2007, the ch-aviation fleets advanced module shows. The A380-800(F) was nixed without a single delivery.

In contrast to its European rival, Boeing's production B777-200F is commercially successful with 205 units built so far and a further 42 on firm order. The American manufacturer also offers B767-based widebody freighters, including both production B767-300Fs and converted units based on both the B767-200 and B767-300 types. A B777-300(ER)-based converted freighter is currently under certification with Israel Aerospace Industries. Boeing has yet to announce freighter types based on its newest generation widebodies, such as the B787 or the B777X Families.