KLM last Thursday, operated its 100th makeshift freighter cargo flight since the pandemic began. The flight to Shanghai was conducted by one of the airline’s un-retired Boeing 747 combis commandeered to increase the airline’s cargo capacity. KLM CEO Pieter Elbers was onboard the flight.
Many airlines have turned to operate passenger aircraft for cargo flights to generate income and provide capacity while passenger flights have been grounded. A large portion of the world’s cargo capacity exists in the belly of passenger flights. As such, the was a sudden scarcity of capacity when the world’s airlines grounded their fleets.
KLM’s 100th flight with cargo in the passenger cabin took place on Thursday. One of the airline’s retired Boeing 747-400M aircraft was used for the flight. KLM had retired its Boeing 747 fleet at roughtly the same time as Qantas. However, after a very short retirement, the airline brought back a handful of these aircraft specifically for cargo flights.
KLM operated two Boeing 747-400M flights between Amsterdam and Shanghai last Thursday. KL893 departed Amsterdam (AMS) at 17:44, landing in Shanghai (PVG) ten hours and five minutes later at 09:49 the next day. Meanwhile, KL895 left at 21:50, landing at 13:52. At the time of writing, it was not immediately clear which flight was the 100th flight with cargo in the cabin.
Commenting on the flight, the airline’s CEO said,
“In my opinion, the Cargo-in-Cabin concept symbolises the resilience, creativity and flexibility of our employees, who work day in, day out to keep our business running. When we had dozens of aircraft parked for weeks on end and less capacity as a result, our cargo division pulled out all the stops to meet the rapidly growing demand for medical supplies.”
About the cargo flights
KLM has specially trained 60 members of its staff to work on its cargo flights carrying freight in the cabin. The first flight took place on April 30th, with around 17 such flights per month. The airline has been using its combi 747s for such flights. The aircraft already have an advantage in that the passenger cabin’s rear is already adapted for carrying cargo containers.
By loading cargo into the passenger cabin, the airline can create space for roughly six large freight pallets. The boxes are placed on the aircraft’s seats. This part of the aircraft makes up around 40% of the 747-400M’s total cargo capacity. So far, KLM has carried more than 80,000 boxes and more than 85 million face masks on such flights. Previously, KLM’s combi 747s have carried a variety of things, including Pandas.