LATAM Cargo is adding long-haul cargo capacity during the COVID-19 crisis and has removed seats from the passenger cabin of a 777-300ER.
The aircraft will join the fleet of passenger aircraft being used exclusively for cargo, to supplement passenger flight reductions related to COVID-19 and the resulting decline in belly-hold capacity. According to Cargo Facts’ Passenger-Freighter Database, all sixteen of LATAM’s 787-9s are being used as freighters on cargo-only missions.
LATAM modified the 777-300ER at its Sao Paulo Guarulhos Airport (GRU) MRO facility. ANAC subsequently issued an STC for the modification. LATAM didn’t say how many more of its ten 777-300ERs would be reconfigured.
Like many of the “passenger freighters,” LATAM Cargo’s makeshift freighter will be deployed on flights to Asia to facilitate imports of personal protective equipment. Seat removal increases the capacity of the 777-300ER by an estimated 20%, according to the airline.
LATAM’s first 777-300ER cargo flight to China took off for Amsterdam on May 3 and was operated by unit 40588, but it’s unclear whether this is the aircraft with seats removed.
The Chile-headquartered carrier previously operated three 777Fs, but made the decision in 2016 to a freighter fleet based sole on the 767 platform. When asked if freighter-converted 777-300ERSFs may be in the cards, the carrier told Cargo Facts the reconfigured 777-300ER was, “a temporary measure that responds to the current situation.” For now, the carrier’s regular network aligns with the capabilities of the 767 platform.
LATAM’s freighter fleet comprises of eight factory-built 767-300Fs and three 767-300BCFs. A ninth 767-300F (34627) is subleased to LATAM’s former affiliate, Mas Air.