American Airlines is using its now grounded passenger aircraft to transport freight from the US to Europe to keep business moving in spite of the coronavirus outbreak.

    American Airlines has flown B777-300s which have 14 cargo positions for large pallets on routes between the two regions.

    Air cargo has always played a key role in times of crisis, delivering lifesaving medical supplies and materials to keep the world’s infrastructure intact.

    In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, this role has never been more important as the world relies more on e-commerce to support basic needs during quarantines and social distancing. The airlines’ role is deemed a critical infrastructure industry by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    President of cargo and vice president of international operations at American Airlines, Rick Elieson, said: “Challenging times call for creative solutions, and a team of people across the airline has been working nonstop to arrange cargo-only flight options for our customers.”

    Several airlines have followed suit and similarly responded to the drop in air cargo belly capacity by offering cargo-only flights on passenger aircraft in the wake of the coronavirus shortfall.

    Swiss World Cargo, the air cargo division of Swiss, will operate cargo-only flights on some aircraft. The first cargo-only service has operated between Zurich and Hong Kong, the first of several planned charter flights.

    The route was operated by an A340-300, and additional destinations and aircraft may be selected based on customer needs for global shipping.

    “Despite the slowdown in global air travel, we are seeing an ongoing demand for the transportation of goods,” said head of cargo at Swiss International Air Lines, Ashwin Bhat.

    “At Swiss WorldCargo, we are therefore committed to supporting logistics and customer needs, especially for the shipping of sensitive goods such as medicines or pharmaceuticals. We aim to continue to offer the Swiss quality and consistency we are known for throughout the industry.”

    Virgin Atlantic operated its first-ever cargo-only charter last week.