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Passenger Airlines Start Shifting Idled Planes Into Freight Business – WSJ

PortandTerminal.com, March 22, 2020

NEW YORK – The Wall Street Journal is reporting (paywall) that some airlines are now 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.

READ: Lufthansa preparing ‘air bridge’ to ensure supply chains through pandemic

In Europe, German airline Lufthansa is working with the government to prepare an “air bridge” to ensure that necessary goods would continue to arrive in Germany during the coronavirus epidemic, the airline’s boss said on Tuesday.

Closer to home, American Airlines announced on Thursday that it will fly a handful of cargo-only flights to Europe, using its standard 777-300 passenger planes, over the course of the next few days. The company says these flights will carry medical supplies, mail for active U.S. military, telecommunications equipment and electronics, as well as packages from e-commerce firms.

American Airlines’ first cargo-only flight will operate two round trips between Dallas and Frankfurt over the course of four days, carrying only cargo and necessary flight personnel. This is the first scheduled cargo-only flight since 1984 when American retired the last of its Boeing 747 freighters.

READ: Airlines appear to come up short in bid to win cash grants in rescue package

Delta, too, recently announced that it would use some of its grounded passenger planes to move cargo. As airlines continue to grapple with the fallout of this pandemic, we’ll likely see more of them do this in the coming weeks.

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