Coronavirus update: Korean Air uses passenger aircraft as freighters

Korean Air A330 used as freighter

Korean Air is using its passenger aircraft to transport cargo on suspended passenger routes such as Ho Chi Minh City and Qingdao.

The entry restrictions by many countries on passengers departing from Korea due to COVID-19 has led to a suspension of 89 of Korean Air’s 124 routes as of 13 March.

Korean Air revealed that Walter Cho, chairman of Hanjin Group, a South Korean conglomerate which owns the airline, recently proposed using passenger aircraft as freighters to overcome the current crisis, cut down expenses and support import and export companies.

“As the COVID-19 situation becomes increasingly dire, it is important for us to take a new perspective when looking at the market”, Cho proposed in a recent meeting with the airline’s executives.

“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.”

More cargo routes planned

Korean Air, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, then transported Korean emergency supplies and agricultural products using its A330-300 to Ho Chi Minh City on 13 March, a passenger route that has been suspended since 3 March. The aircraft can carry 20 tonnes of cargo.

In addition, the airline says it plans to deploy more passenger aircraft from 21 March to transport cargo to Qingdao and is planning to expand its destinations and the cargo items to be transported by the grounded passenger aircraft.

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

Korean Air says it will continue its proactive measures to address challenges caused by coronavirus and to seek new opportunities in the current unpredictable market.

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