Air Canada (AC, Montréal Trudeau) is eyeing 12 dedicated freighters by the end of 2024 with a series of passenger-to-freight (P2F) aircraft conversions underway and the delivery of new freighters due over the next two years. The airline sees expanding its cargo capacity as a "great opportunity."

Speaking at a Raymond James Conference in New York on August 23, Air Canada Chief Financial Officer Amos Kazzaz said by the end of 2023, Air Canada will have seven dedicated B767-300(ERBDSF)s and acquire a further three B767-300Fs in 2024 for a total of ten B767 freighters. Earlier this month, the airline confirmed it would also buy two B777-200Fs which are scheduled to enter service in 2024.

"We see this as a large opportunity for ourselves. It helps in terms of revenue diversification, offsetting seasonality (issues), but more importantly, it's meeting that growing (cargo) demand," said Kazzaz. "We're happy with the progress. It's been a little slower than expected for the (B767) conversion process, but that's now catching up, and then we have the new freighters rolling in from the factories."

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, Air Canada has taken possession of two of the converted B767 freighters so far. In terms of tonnage, Kazzaz says about 30% of cargo will be carried in dedicated freighters and 70% in the cargo holds of passenger planes by the end of 2024.

"What Air Canada has brought into this (cargo space) and is behind the decision to make the investment is that 80% of the cargo business is done by freight forwarders," Kazzaz said adding that the scope of Air Canada's international network means the airline has strong relationships with freight forwarders and that they want dedicated cargo routes.

"They want it split off from the passenger side of the business," the CFO told the conference. "On the passenger side, capacity changes. One day it's a B787, then it's a B767. Now the freight forwarders have the ability to book dedicated cargo lanes that then feed into the rest of the network.

"It really provides a unique opportunity to take advantage of the passenger belly space in the network and also create some dedicated cargo lanes. About ten hours out of Toronto Pearson, you've got about 34% of the world's cargo destinations covered. The infrastructure and geography make this a winning business for Air Canada."