The number of airlines deploying some of their long-haul Boeing or Airbus pax jetliners to carry cargo in passenger cabins is rising fast. Their step is a reaction to the thinning out or total halt of passenger services leading to a lack of lower deck transport capacity and causing supply chain disruptions on a global level.
Small containers comfortably accommodated on passenger seats is rapidly becoming a common sight in the world aviation. Seen at LATAM Cargo, for instance, which filled the seats of two of its
long-haul Boeing 787-900 pax aircraft with air freight, in this particular case in order to supply fresh salmon, harvested in Chilean fish farms, to the Mexican market.
Similar transports happened in Perú, where the Latin American carrier utilized one of its Airbus A320s on the Lima-Iquitos route to stock the local depots depending on air carriage due to difficult ocean and road access.
Using seat containers stowed on board its pax fleet to transport perishable products, medicines and general cargo, complements the main deck capacity of LATAM Cargo’s 11 B767-300 freighters that are deployed on North American and European routes, but tend to operate within Brazil as well.
LATAM Cargo announces flight modifications
In addition to using pax aircraft to carry cargo, as described above, the airline made significant modifications to its itinerary, upping freighter frequencies in line with some route changes.
Freighter flights between Santiago and Miami were increased fivefold, offering Chilean salmon exporters a robust solution. Capacity between Europe and South America was expanded 20%, adding up to
a total of 6 weekly frequencies that will allow the transportation of automotive spare parts, general cargo and medicines to South America, as well as the transportation of perishable products to
Europe. Also, frequencies between North America and South America were increased by almost 15%, totaling 26 frequencies each week.
Plus, LATAM Cargo will launch twice-weekly freighter flights between Santiago and Los Angeles, scheduled to commence in the first half of April, spokesperson Maria Teresa Escobar told CargoForwarder Global.
First AA cargo flight DFW-FRA since 1984
Similar to its Latin American peer, American Airlines has also decided to operate widebody passenger aircraft on long-haul routes carrying cargo. This way, locations such as Auckland (AKL), Sao Paulo (GRU), and Honolulu (HNL) will be serviced. In addition, the carrier expands its cargo capacity by offering the market more roundtrip flights between Dallas/Fort Worth and Frankfurt starting immediately. “The air cargo industry plays a vital role in supporting the world’s economy and it is more important than ever before that we continue to find solutions to serve our customers,” said Roger Samways, Vice President Cargo Sales.
Shortly before, two AA operated Boeing 777-300 pax aircraft flew two round trips between DFW and FRA over the course of four days, transporting critical goods including medical supplies, mail for active U.S. military, telecommunications equipment and electronics that will support people working from home, and e-commerce packages.
These were its first cargo-only flights since 1984 on this route.
Delta Cargo turns pax A350s and B777s into freighters
U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines started dispatching idled aircraft on cargo runs to destinations around the world, with thousands of pounds of supplies. On 17MAR20, DL operated a cargo-only flight from Dublin to Atlanta carrying medical supplies. More than 32,000 pounds of pharmaceutical supplies were loaded on the widebody Airbus A350. Simultaneously, DL operated two Boeing 777-200LRs from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia, with more than 80 tons of cargo.
A cargo flight from Chicago to Amsterdam to deliver U.S. mail followed suit. The Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 are two of the largest aircraft in the Delta fleet, and are capable of flying up to 42 tons and 49 tons of cargo, respectively, in their holds. In order to tackle the capacity crunch caused by the reduction of passenger flights, Delta Cargo launched a new cargo charter operation to provide safe and reliable transportation of essential goods to communities around the globe using passenger aircraft that would otherwise be parked.
"We're here to help keep global commerce moving and supply lines open," said Shawn Cole, Vice President - Delta Cargo. "Transforming our operation to provide cargo-only charter flights allows us to diversify our business at a time where the global need to move critical supplies is significant.”
LH Cargo and Austrian Airlines clear pax cabins for cargo shipments
In Europe, a Lufthansa A330 pax aircraft was utilized to fly various highly urgent goods, mainly from the medical sector, including masks and other protective equipment, from Shanghai to Frankfurt. The carrier points out that under normal circumstances, about 50% of its shipments are transported in its freighter fleet, with the remaining 50% in the lower deck compartments of the airline’s passenger fleet. However, since the corona crisis forced the carrier to ground most of the passenger fleet for an indefinite period of time, much sought-after lower deck freight capacity is lacking. The Lufthansa Group and Lufthansa Cargo are therefore looking into the possibility of operating further flights exclusively for cargo shipments, loaded in the lower decks and cabins of its passenger fleet.
Meanwhile, LH group member Austrian Airlines has accomplished three cargo flights transporting medical items from Xiamen in China to Vienna, utilizing passenger Boeing 777s.
Virgin Atlantic reports virgin cargo flight
In the UK, Virgin Atlantic has flown 12.5 tons of medical and pharmaceutical items from London to New York on board one of its passenger B787-9s. It was the first ever cargo-only charter in the 36-year spanning history of the carrier.
As global trade continues despite Covid-19 with available cargo capacity remaining flat due to the thinning out of passenger flights, Virgin Atlantic’s management ensures the unconditional support of supply chains across the globe. Having said this, its flight VS698 was no flash in the pan, with more to follow, as indicated in its press release.
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