On the back of rising demand for air cargo services, RwandAir (WB, Kigali) is looking to partner Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int'l) in securing an air freighter, according to Chief Executive Officer Yvonne Makolo.

She told FlightGlobal the airline had seen a big increase in cargo pre-COVID-19 using its two A330s (one A330-200 and one A330-300) and during the pandemic, had repurposed the wide-bodies by filling the cabins with cargo on flights to Brussels National, Guangzhou, and London Heathrow before those routes reopened up to passenger traffic.

Qatar Airways in February announced it was in talks to purchase a 49% stake in RwandAir and may be open to leasing its aircraft to RwandAir, as it did with now-defunct Air Italy (IG, Milan Malpensa), the report said. According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, Qatar's cargo fleet includes two B747-8(F)s, twenty-one B777-200Fs, and four A330-200Fs. It also has five B777-200 freighters on order.

Qatar Airways, in a statement, said its share of the air cargo market had grown significantly over the past few months, carrying close to 1 billion cargo tonne-kilometres (CTK), accounting for 6.8% of the global cargo market, ensuring much-needed airfreight capacity to support global trade and the transportation of essential medical and aid supplies to impacted regions.

Statistics presented by IATA Chief Economist Brian Pierce earlier this month showed demand for air cargo was much more robust than passenger air travel, with July cargo tonne-km flown down -13.5% year-on-year versus -79.8% for global RPKs. He predicted that as the global economy recovered, air cargo should rise sharply, coupled with a slow return of passenger fleets, which could assist airlines’ loads and yields. Figures showed that freighters were carrying most cargo on all trade lanes, whereas usually more than half would have been carried in the belly holds of passenger aircraft. A shortage of cargo capacity was forcing yields higher, with July capacity down -31.1% year-on-year, but yields up 60% on last year.