TOULOUSE, FRANCE — Airbus has secured orders for 39 A350 freighters in the 15 months since the first aircraft appeared in the backlog, surpassing the total deliveries of its A330-200F, which once had a backlog of nearly 80 jets. 

The A330-200F took only four months to reach the same number of orders, but just 38 aircraft were delivered in the decade after its launch. With a payload capacity of 64 tons, the A330-200F was Airbus's previous attempt to replicate the A300-600F line's success and compete with Boeing's 767-300F in the new-build twinjet freighter market.

Launched in 2007, the A330-200F initially received commitments for 32 aircraft from lessors Guggenheim Aviation and Intrepid Aviation Group, and potential Indian operator Flyington Freighters. Airbus aimed to capture a share of the projected demand for around 400 new-build mid-sized freighters between the Boeing 757 and MD-11. Within a year, the A330-200F had received orders for 77 aircraft from nine customers, including Aircastle, Etihad Airways, Avion Aircraft Trading, MNG Airlines, MatlinPatterson, and BOC Aviation.

However, the backlog began to decline even as deliveries commenced in 2010, with Etihad receiving the first aircraft. Over the next five years, total orders dropped to 42 and never recovered. Airbus delivered 38 aircraft, with the most recent delivery to Etihad in February 2017, and the remaining backlog was removed in 2020. Airbus believes that basing the freighter on the A330-200, prioritizing range over capacity, contributed to the weak sales. The EFW joint venture by Airbus has generated interest in freight conversion of both the 61-ton A330-200 and the larger 63-ton A330-300.

Airbus's latest foray into the freighter sector, the A350F, boasts a higher capacity of 109 tons. Commitments to the aircraft have steadily increased, with a recent deal for four units from an undisclosed customer bringing the total firm orders to 39. Air France-KLM Group is the primary customer, taking eight aircraft for Air France Cargo and Martinair. Logistics company CMA CGM, which has a cooperation agreement with Air France-KLM, has ordered four. Air Lease, Singapore Airlines, and Etihad have each ordered seven, with the remaining two in the backlog allocated to Azerbaijan's Silk Way West.