Korean Air uses passenger aircraft as freighters

(Photo: Korean Air)

Korean Air has announced that it started to use passenger aircraft to transport cargo on suspended passenger routes such as Ho Chi Minh City and Qingdao from March 13.

The impact of the COVID-19 virus and the resulting entry restrictions imposed by countries on passengers departing from Korea, plus an overall drop in demand, has led to the suspension of 89 of Korean Air’s 124 routes as of March 13. This represents an approximate 86% reduction in international flights by the airline.

Walter Cho, chairman of Hanjin group that includes Korean Air, proposed using passenger aircraft as freighters to overcome the current crisis, as this would reduce costs and support import and export companies.

In a meeting with the airline’s executives, Mr Cho said: “As the COVID-19 situation becomes increasingly dire, it is important for us to take a  new perspective when looking at the market. If we use the cargo compartment of our parked passenger aircraft, not only can we respond to the changing demand of cargo transport by diversifying our cargo routes, but we can also reduce aircraft parking fees.”

On March 13, Korean Air transported emergency supplies and agricultural products from Korean companies to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, using an A330-300. This was a passenger route that was suspended on March 3.

The airline said that, from March 21, it plans to deploy more passenger aircraft, which have been idle from February 25, to take cargo to Qingdao. It also plans to further expand the number of destinations and cargo items to be transported by the currently grounded passenger aircraft.

Mr Cho added: “The business strategies of passenger and cargo should be shifted as the transatlantic road in the sky is now blocked. We must flexibly respond to market demand.”