Astral to lease two aircraft for cargo


An Astral plane on the runway. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Nairobi-based cargo carrier Astral Aviation is set to acquire two new aircraft from Dubai-based Vaayu Group in a lease agreement as it seeks to expand its fleet amid rising cargo freight demand.

The deal was announced on Monday by Singapore-based engineering company Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd.

ST Engineering said its commercial aerospace business has signed an agreement to lease up to five Airbus A320 Passenger-to-Freighter (P2F) aircraft to Vaayu Group (Vaayu) which will in turn sub-lease two of the carriers to Astral Aviation.

“We are excited to welcome Vaayu as our first A320P2F lessee customer, and for Astral Aviation to be the first airline in the world to operate such a platform," the head of aviation asset management at ST Engineering Yip Heng Meng said in a statement.

The air freight market has been a rare bright spot for airlines over the past two years, with rates rising due to an online shopping surge and pandemic-linked supply chain disruptions driving demand for cargo space.

This has seen an increase in conversion of passenger aircraft to cargo vessels as business and leisure travel is yet to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Astral, which operates out of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), said it will further boost its fleet beyond the latest acquisitions.

“We are truly honoured to be the launch operator for the A320P2F which is also the first Airbus in Astral’s fleet of 14 freighter aircraft," said Astral Aviation chief executive Sanjeev Gadhia.

"The Airbus range of freighter aircraft are impressive and will add immense value to Astral’s fleet and network expansion, which will result in Astral considering future freighter aircraft acquisitions of the A320, A321, A330-300 and A350.”

Astral Aviation last year opened new hubs in China and United Arabs Emirates as the carrier expanded its stations beyond the African continent.

Robust air cargo demand should remain a bright spot for the airline industry as international travel gradually recovers from the coronavirus crisis, aviation industry body IATA said earlier.

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