Airbus to rent out its giant Beluga aircraft in bet on air cargo boom

An Airbus Beluga transport aircraft takes off from the Airbus plant in Hamburg-Finkenwerder.

Marcus Brandt | picture alliance | Getty Images

Airbus on Tuesday said it is renting out its giant Beluga aircraft to outside customers, a big bet on the air cargo market.

The whale-shaped planes are usually used to transport large aircraft parts for its planes like wings and fuselage sections between its factories in Europe. Under a new airline, Airbus Beluga Transport, the company plans to fly large cargo for space, oil and gas companies and militaries.

Air cargo has been a bright spot during the pandemic. Space on passenger jets plunged after airlines cut service due to weak demand for flights. Meanwhile, port snarls caused shipping delays, driving up prices — and demand — for faster shipping by air.

Airbus said the new plan will allow it to take advantage of the remaining 20 years of life that BelugaST have and will allow it to transport helicopters and engines fully assembled. Larger BelugaXL planes will take over the Beluga STs’ previous missions.

The aerospace giant, Boeing‘s chief rival, said it flew its first mission late last year delivering a helicopter from its manufacturing site in Marignane, France to Kobe, Japan.

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