Airlines Convert Passenger Fleets to Carry Cargo During Coronavirus Pandemic

Airlines are looking for ways to utilize grounded passenger fleets to meet a shortage of cargo capacity. 

The ripple effect of COVID-19 has grounded many passenger flights which is causing a global shortage of cargo space. Since passenger aircraft make up a large share of cargo capacity, there is a serious shortage in space, causing air freight rates to spike.

According to Fortune Magazine, airlines are using their passenger fleets to transport more cargo, including medicines and smart phones as well as foods. They reported Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd., Korean Air Lines Co. and American Airlines Group Inc. are hauling a greater amount of goods in the belly of passenger planes to keep up with demand.

According to a press release from IATA, the European Commission (EC) is providing comprehensive guidelines to ensure that permissions to operate passenger fleets for cargo flights are streamlined as airlines have been facing bottlenecks in getting permission and crews.

“Using passenger planes is a helpful for now. Oil prices are falling so it’s economical for some airlines to use their passenger fleet for cargo. Though passenger travel as drastically diminished, global trade continues, especially with factories reopening in China,” stated Joe Monaghan, head of Worldwide Logistics Group (WWL). “We are looking for solutions for our customers and keeping their cargo moving.”

Willy Fong from WWL Hong Kong has compiled the following list of the latest passenger service status from most major airlines:

  • Lufthansa: Reduced 95% capacity, 700 aircraft grounded
  • Uzbekistan Airways: Suspended all cross border traffic until further notice
  • Swissair: Two thirds of the fleet grounded, reduced 80% capacity, considering further reduction
  • KLM: Reduced capacity 90%
  • Air Portugal: Only maintaining 25 international flights per week, most of the aircraft grounded
  • Norwegian Air: Reduced 85% capacity
  • Finnair: Reduced 90% capacity
  • Emirates: Suspended all passenger service as of March 25
  • Ryanair: Reduced 80% capacity, considering suspending all services
  • AA: Reduced 30% domestic capacity and 75% International capacity
  • KE: Reduced 80% international capacity
  • Qatar Airways: Reduced 75% capacity
  • Easy Jet: Reduced 90% capacity as of March 24
  • Copa Airlines: Reduced 80% capacity
  • SQ: Reduced 96% capacity until April 30
  • UA : Reduced domestic capacity 60%, international capacity 80%
  • Qantas: Suspended all international service, reduced 60% domestic capacity until May 31
  • BA: Reduced capacity by 75% for April and May
  • SAS: Suspended most the services, no percentage provided
  • Etihad: Suspended all service for two weeks as of March 25
  • Turkish: Suspended all international service except HKG, Moscow, New York, Washington and Ethiopia effective March 27
  • CX: Reduced 96% capacity for April and May
  • South African Airlines: Suspended all international airlines until May 31
  • Virgin Aus: Suspended all international services, reduced domestic capacity by 50%
  • EIAI: Suspended all international services except to Toronto, New York, Paris, London and Johannesburg
  • Avianco (Colombia): Suspended all international services, reduced 84% domestic capacity
  • Virgin Atlantic: Reduced 80% capacity and will increase to 85% in April
  • AC: Reduced International capacity significantly, no percentage given
  • Delta: Reduced 40% capacity over the next few months
  • West Jet: Stop operation for the next 30 days
  • Scoot: Suspended 98% capacity
  • Jet Star: Suspended all services for 3 weeks from March 23 until April 15

We will continue to post updates regarding this information and any other supply chain disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Please contact your Worldwide Logistics representative for any questions.