Korean Air has started to use passenger aircraft to transport cargo on suspended passenger routes such as Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) and Qingdao (TAO) from 13 March.
Flight suspensions and reductions due to COVID-19 have led airlines parking large numbers of passenger aircraft. The entry restrictions of many countries on passengers departing from Korea has led to the suspension of 89 of Korean Air’s 124 routes as of 13 March. The number of operating international flights has been reduced to approximately 86 per cent following a decrease in demand, the carrier says.
Hanjin Group chairman Walter Cho notes the move would help cut expenses and support import and export companies. “As the COVID-19 situation becomes increasingly dire, it is important for us to take a new perspective when looking at the market.
“If we use the cargo compartment of our parked passenger aircraft, not only can we respond to the changing demand of cargo transport by diversifying our cargo routes, but we can also reduce aircraft parking fees,” Cho says.
On 13 March Korean Air transported emergency supplies and agricultural products from Korean companies with an A330-300, which can carry 20 tonnes of cargo, to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a passenger route that has been suspended from 3 March.
In addition, from 21 March the airline plans to deploy more passenger aircraft, which have been idle from 25 February to transport cargo to Qingdao, China. Korean Air plans to expand its destinations and cargo items to be transported by the grounded passenger aircraft.
Korean Air says it will continue its proactive measures to address challenges from COVID-19 and seek new opportunities in the market amid this unpredictable market which has seen suspensions of flights and severe restrictions on European countries.
“The business strategies of passenger and cargo should be shifted as the transatlantic road in the sky is now blocked,” Cho adds. “We must flexibly respond to market demand.”