Bullish ALC Orders Airbus Narrowbodies, Widebodies, Freighters

ALC is the first buyer for the A350F as the lessor moves into cargo.
Credit: Airbus

DUBAI—Air Lease Corp. (ALC) has demonstrated its confidence in the future growth of the air transport industry by signing a letter of intent for 111 Airbus aircraft and becoming the launch customer for a freighter version of the A350 widebody.

The deal, announced in the Airbus chalet on the second day of the Dubai Airshow, was notable for its size and scope at a time when some industry forecasts caution that air traffic demand might take another three to five years to recover to 2019 levels.

The order, which Airbus says will be finalized in the coming months, includes 25 A220-300s, 51 A321neos and 20 A321XLR—the extra-long-range narrowbody—as well as four A330neo widebodies and seven A350Fs.

The A350F order takes ALC into the air cargo market for the first time. The lessor’s executive chairman Steve Udvar-Hazy said that since demand for cargo capacity was so strong, it was time to move into the sector.

“We see a dual trend. First, there’s the widebodies being converted to freighters. Second, there’s a market for dedicated brand-new aircraft which are the most capable. Our emphasis is on those new dedicated freighters,” Udvar-Hazy said.

ALC CEO and president John Plueger said the A350F’s range and capacity—more than 4,700nm with 109 tons—was the deciding factor in selecting the new A350-1000-based freighter, which Airbus launched earlier this year. Another factor, Plueger said, was that the aircraft would be the only freighter in the market that will meet 2027 noise and environmental regulations. ALC and Airbus also announced that they were launching a multi-million dollar ESG fund initiative that will contribute toward investment in sustainable aviation development projects.

Plueger said that the lessor was in discussion with some five airlines on placements for the A350Fs.

With this order, ALC has bought or committed to 496 Airbus aircraft. The lessor was the launch customer for the A321LR and XLR and is the largest lessor customer for the A220, which began as a Bombardier CSeries aircraft and was incorporated into the Airbus portfolio and rebranded when Airbus acquired Bombardier’s commercial airliner business.

With the A330neo, Plueger said the company was seeing “very, very strong interest in the airplane, primarily as a replacement aircraft.”

Udvar-Hazy said the additional A220 order was prompted by increased demand for aircraft in the 100-150 seat size, particularly in Europe.

Airbus CCO and head of international Christian Scherer said that the bulk of the order would be delivered in the second part of the decade. With the A321 in high demand, he said it was “smart for ALC to secure [production] slots early.”

The previous day at Dubai, Airbus announced an order for 255 A321s from Indigo Partners. The U.S. private equity fund’s partner airlines include ultra-LCCs Frontier Airlines, JetSMART, Volaris and Wizz Air.

Karen Walker

Karen Walker is Air Transport World Editor-in-Chief and Aviation Week Network Group Air Transport Editor-in-Chief. She joined ATW in 2011 and oversees the editorial content and direction of ATW, Routes and Aviation Week Group air transport content.