Passenger airlines are finding a new use for all their currently unused jets, freight shipping. Jennifer Smith reports at WSJ:
The coronavirus pandemic is reshaping global airfreight operations as passenger airlines ground planes and companies scramble for capacity to keep medical supplies, industrial parts and high-demand consumer goods moving.
Some airlines are putting passenger planes to work as freight-only aircraft, with main cabins empty and cargo holds filled with shipments. The tactic provides some revenue for carriers hit hard by plunging travel demand and may help ease freight bottlenecks caused by cascading cancellations of passenger services, which has dramatically reduced capacity for goods traveling in the bellies of planes.
American Airlines Group Inc. is launching its first scheduled cargo flight since 1984 on Friday, with two round-trip flights over four days between Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Frankfurt on a wide-body Boeing Co. 777-300 passenger plane that can carry more than 100,000 pounds of freight. The flights are expected to be booked to capacity and will move cargo including medical supplies, e-commerce packages, and telecommunications equipment and electronics, the airline said.
Global carriers including Delta Air Lines Inc., Korean Air Lines Co., and Qantas Airways Ltd. also are running passenger aircraft on freight-only flights in certain lanes. “The business strategies of passenger and cargo should be shifted as the transatlantic road in the sky is now blocked,” Korean Air Chairman Walter Cho said in a statement. “We must flexibly respond to market demand.”
Deutsche Lufthansa AG , which has cut 95% of its passenger flights but continues to operate its freighter fleet, said this week it may use some of the passenger planes to move cargo. “The transport demand has clearly increased, and we want to make our contribution wherever possible to maintain the delivery chains,” Chief Executive Carsten Spohr said in a news conference.
The moves come as airlines around the world have been battered by fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Carriers are furloughing workers and cutting costs to try to stay afloat while they seek government bailouts.
Industry executives say airfreight prices have started to surge on key trade lanes, including routes in Asia where production is starting back up even as industrial operations in Europe and North America shut down in an effort to contain the coronavirus.