Alaska Air Cargo is set to begin flying passenger aircraft as cargo-only flights to carry essential goods like mail, medical equipment, e-commerce packages and food throughout its domestic network.
Filling the passenger cabin with cargo will backfill the loss in capacity across the continental US and Hawaii after passenger flights were reduced as the Covid-19 crisis spread, the carrier says.
“We’re determined to help protect the resiliency of our nation’s supply chain by connecting critical cargo to the communities we serve during this public health crisis,” says Torque Zubeck, managing director of Alaska Air Cargo.
“Our teams have been working tirelessly since March to identify the safest and most effective processes to increase our cargo capacity as quickly as possible,” Zubeck adds.
In addition to Air Cargo’s dedicated three freighters, six B737-900 aircraft will be utilised as cargo-only aircraft. Boxes, mail and other items will be placed on and under seats, in overhead bins and in closets – to offer an additional 6,124 kg of cargo than what a passenger-only flight could carry. In total, each flight will carry up to 13,608 kg, which includes belly capacity.
The crew for these cargo flights will consist of two pilots and two flight attendants. The flight attendants will be seated in the main cabin to make sure the cabin is safe and secure and provide fire suppression if required, as passenger cabins do not have automated fire suppression systems like cargo compartments.
If approved by the FAA, the passenger-only aircraft would begin flying throughout the US in May.