KLM will temporarily reactivate two of its four 747-400 Combis to transport cargo between the Netherlands and China. (Photo: KLM)

Netherlands-based KLM will bring two 747-400 Combis out of their short-lived retirement to serve as freighters between Amsterdam (AMS) and China during the COVID-19 crisis. The carrier has partnered with the Dutch government and the Royal Philips Dutch conglomerate to transport cargo on the aircraft for six to eight weeks, starting April 13.

KLM had recently decided to bring forward to March the retirement of its seven remaining passenger 747-400s by more than a year. The carrier confirmed to Cargo Facts that this consisted of three aircraft in full passenger configuration and four Combis, all of which were operational until being parked a couple of weeks ago. Now, it appears the severe pandemic downturn has led to the reactivation of the two 747 Combis, which will operate two weekly flights to Beijing (PEK) and three weekly flights to Shanghai (PVG) due to the severe shortage of cargo capacity.

KLM told Cargo Facts the original intent, with regard to the Combis, was to phase out one aircraft in April and keep three until the winter. Meanwhile, Air France KLM Martinair Cargo, which has two 777Fs (32965 and 32966) operated by Air France, and three 747-400Fs (33694, 33695 and 33696) a 747-400BCF (24066) operated by Martinair, confirmed it would continue flying its full freighters for at least a few more years.

While KLM didn’t specify which of the four Combis (28195, 28459, 28460 and 30454) would be reactivated, it is unlikely to be the oldest, unit 28195, from which part of the KLM titles were removed in the decommissioning process, according to social media photos.

KLM has been the sole operator of 747-400 Combis since South-Korea-based Asiana Airlines converted its last two (25782 and 25784) into full freighters in 2017. Taiwan-based EVA Air retired its last (28093) in 2015. A 747-4000 Combi offers much more volume than the 777s and 787s the Dutch carrier is currently operating on cargo-only flights.

Meanwhile, Atlas Air is bringing its freighter-converted 747-400Fs back into service from storage to handle the increased demand for maindeck capacity. On April 1, the carrier reactivated a 747-400BCF (24833) previously stored in Arizona, and on April 8, another 747-400BCF (26557) parked in Spain was ferried to Frankfurt (FRA).

While Cargo Facts Asia 2020 will be a virtual event, the unparalleled networking and continuing education opportunities remain, with the best and brightest minds addressing the most pressing industry issues for Asia Pacific — including those around COVID-19. To register and for more information, visit www.cargofactsasia.com.

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