Finnair is modifying two passenger A350-900s to increase the aircraft’s ability to exclusively carry cargo during the COVID-19 crisis. Still a far cry from a yet-to-be-launched factory-built A350F in terms of operational characteristics, the reconfigured aircraft will soon carry cargo on the main deck.
The airline confirmed to Cargo Facts that, while it is considering the full removal of seats from the passenger cabins of some aircraft, at this stage the aircraft will only have their seats covered and protected to facilitate the safe loading of cargo on the main deck. Finnair currently has fifteen A350-900s.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) provided updated guidance earlier in April on the transport of cargo in the cabins of passenger aircraft. While restraining lightweight medical supplies to seats qualifies as a “minor change” and can be approved relatively easily, the removal of seats requires a “major change” or supplemental type certificate (STC) application with EASA.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is reportedly close to issuing guidance allowing U.S. airlines to carry cargo in passenger cabins.
By the end of this week, Finnair will have operated more than ten return flights on its A350s to Tokyo (NRT), Seoul (ICN), Osaka (KIX), Shanghai (PVG) and Guangzhou (CAN), carrying national emergency supplies to Finland and Estonia, coronavirus samples, supplies from other companies and organizations, and cargo that would have been transported in the bellies of Finnair’s passenger flights, such as fresh salmon and other seafood products.
According to analysis by Cargo Facts, other operators using their A350s as freighters include: British Airways, Delta, Fiji Airways, Iberia, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, South African Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. It appears those carriers have not removed any seats so far, although Lufthansa — which is currently flying both A330-300s and A350-900s for cargo only — recently said it will be removing the seats on at least four aircraft to maximize the available volume.
Meanwhile, airlines that have stripped away passenger cabins on other aircraft models include: Aegean Airlines on A320s and A321s, Air Canada on 777-300ERs, Blue Air on 737-800s, China Eastern on A330-200s, and El Al on 777-200ERs.
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.