SWISS, Austrian Airlines, Icelandair Reconfiguring 767/777s For Cargo

Icelandair has secured a contract to provide 767-300ER flights to freight provider DB Schenker.
Credit: DB Schenker

SALZBURG—The surge in demand for cargo services shows no sign of abating since the COVID-19 crisis grounded the vast majority of passenger aircraft and with them their belly capacity. 

More and more passenger aircraft are now being refitted to transport medical and commercial goods to meet the growing need for airfreight.

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) is considering removing a total of 800 economy-class seats from three of its 12 Boeing 777-300ERs and turning them into cargo freighters.

SWISS and its Swiss WorldCargo division have performed more than 80 cargo-only flights since the end of March, transporting over 1,300 tonnes of airfreight—mainly medicines, medical supplies and equipment for the Swiss healthcare system—between Asia and Switzerland.

SWISS plans to operate more than 100 further cargo flights through May. The carrier will also introduce a cargo-only network offering regular cargo flights from Zurich. Shanghai will be served up to three times daily and Beijing up to twice daily. There will be twice-weekly cargo flights to Chicago O´Hare and Tokyo Narita, as well as once-weekly services to Bangkok and Singapore. Further destinations are expected to be added to the new network over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile Austrian Airlines will use two of its six Boeing 777-200ERs for cargo flights and remove 270 of each aircraft’s 306 seats to meet demand. As a result, the carrier’s freight capacity will be increased by 35%. Austrian Airlines said it has started the necessary certification process for the temporary reconfiguration from a passenger to a freighter aircraft. Austrian Airlines is naming this passenger-cargo version of its 777-200 a “pargo” aircraft. The 777s will operate from Austria to China and Malaysia. Additional destinations could follow.

Icelandair has reconfigured three 767-300ERs to operate 45 cargo flights from April 26 throughout May, flying back and forth between Munich and Shanghai Pudong. Flights from Shanghai to Chicago O´Hare via Iceland will also be scheduled. All passenger seats and galleys have been removed from the aircraft. The 767s will operate for the German logistics company DB Schenker. The contract could be extended further. 

“With our new full passenger cargo charter partnership with Icelandair, we have set up new air freight capacities to tackle the currently high demand for the transportation of medical supply to fight the [COVID-19 coronavirus] outbreak“, DB Schenker SVP global operations and airfreight procurement Björn Eckbauer said in a statement.

Kurt Hofmann

Kurt Hofmann has been writing on the airline industry for 25 years. He appears frequently on Austrian, Swiss and German television and broadcasting…