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Fri, Dec 24, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Singapore Air Cargo eyeing A380, 777 freighters

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Singapore Airlines Cargo Pte, the world's third-largest air cargo carrier, said it will choose between Airbus SAS's A380 and Boeing Co's 777 freighter versions to boost its fleet as global trade expands.

"We are looking at the A380 freighter," Hwang Teng Aun, president of the wholly owned unit of Asia's most profitable airline, in an interview yesterday. "The mother company has already bought the passenger aircraft so there is a lot of commonality. We are also very interested in the 777.''

Hwang, 59, is aiming to expand the company as demand in the US and Europe for Asian-made semiconductors, mobile phones and other electronic products grows. The International Air Transport Association forecast on Dec. 15 international cargo traffic will rise 6 percent annually between 2004 and 2008. This year, freight traffic will rise 10 percent, the group said.

Singapore Airlines Cargo currently has a fleet of 14 747-400 aircraft and is also planning to convert three or four 747-400 passenger planes into freighters, Hwang said. The company may opt to convert more 747s rather than investing in new aircraft, he said.

Mark Hooper, a Hong Kong-based spokesman for Boeing, said the company was in constant talks with Singapore Air Cargo about plane options. Anthony Phillips, a Singapore-based spokesman for Airbus, wasn't immediately available for comment.

The freighter versions of the 777 and the A380 will both be available in 2008.

Singapore Air Cargo also uses cargo space on Singapore Airlines Ltd passenger planes. The cargo unit is scheduled to take delivery of two more 747-400s in the final quarter of next year.

Singapore Airlines will be the first carrier to fly the A380, which will be the world's largest passenger aircraft, in 2006. It has ordered 10 of the planes and has the option to order 15 more.

Analysts say the recent jump in aircraft orders among low-cost carriers may lead to a pick-up in business for dedicated freight carriers.

"The trend toward low-cost carriers in short-haul markets, which tend not to carry much cargo due to tight turnarounds, could also boost the region's requirement for dedicated freighter aircraft," said Peter Harbison, managing director at the Australia-based Center for Asia Pacific Aviation.

Hwang said air cargo market growth will be about 5 percent or 6 percent next year, based on global economic expansion of between 1.5 percent and 3.5 percent.

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