Thursday, April 30, 2020

Airlines turn to cargo supply for survival during coronavirus lockdown

Once the airline industry's ugly ducklings, air freighters are now flying high as some of the only airplanes still criss-crossing the skies during the global coronavirus crisis.

While these aerial juggernauts hauled freight for low margins, airlines lavished advertising on business travellers and tourists. But with these customers grounded, airlines are rushing to turn passenger planes into temporary cargo carriers.

Half of air cargo normally travels in the belly of passenger jets rather than dedicated freighters. But the grounding of two-thirds of the world's fleet has led to a scramble for cargo capacity for medical supplies and other goods.

Airlines saddled with the cost of unused planes are looking to modify cabin interiors to adjust to the new reality. And that is providing a surprise windfall for aircraft maintenance companies deprived of their normal trade of keeping passenger jets flying, industry executives told Reuters.

Germany's Lufthansa Technik AG , Canada's Avianor, Hong Kong's HAECO Group and Belgium's Akka Technologies are among those stripping out seats or adding nets and storage devices to cabins to cram in cargo instead of tourists.

"We have great demand. We have more than 40 airlines requesting a proposal," said Jens Weinreich, product manager at Lufthansa Technik, which has converted 18 cabins for various carriers and expects to modify 100 more.

Lufthansa-owned Austrian Airlines has begun to remove most passenger seats in some 777s, while Polish LOT and Delta Air Lines are also examining freight makeovers.
30/04/20 Reuters/Business Today
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