[Coronavirus] Airlines begin to operate freighter flights with passenger aircraft

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The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (also known as ‘Coronavirus’ and leading to the COVID-19 disease) has forced the global commercial aviation industry to dramatically reduce passenger flight operations. As a result, hundreds of passenger aircraft have now been grounded at many major airports in Europe, North America and Asia.

At the same time, there is an increased demand for cargo capacity for transporting relief goods, protective gear and other health and safety products. Unfortunately, belly cargo capacity has also been reduced (most passenger aircraft also have limited cargo capacity in the lower deck and fly freight all over the world as they operate commercial passenger flights).

The aviation industry is looking for solutions to increase cargo capacity. One of the solutions that we see the last few days, is that passenger aircraft are now being used to operate full freighter flights. Instead of being grounded at a major airport, these aircraft are now being used to transport all sorts of medical supplies from e.g. China to Europe. On some aircraft, cargo will only be loaded in the lower deck, but on some other aircraft, cargo will also be loaded on the passenger deck and even in the overhead bins, to increase cargo capacity. Seats are not being removed but freight is being safely stowed and locked with nets between rows of passenger seats.

Most of the cargo being loaded on the passenger deck of these aircraft are protective gear, which is very light but spacious. This kind of cargo is very well suited for being stored on the passenger deck during transport.

One of the airlines that have operated such a ‘full freighter passenger aircraft flight’ is Lufthansa, but China Eastern, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, SWISS and Aeromexico have also been reported for operating similar flights with passenger aircraft. It is expected that more and more airlines will begin to operate such one-off cargo flights as air cargo brokers are now looking for capacity in the airline industry.

25 March 2020

Featured image: copyright (c) Lufthansa News

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