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Airliners use passenger planes to send cargo amid virus outbreak

Airliners use passenger planes to send cargo amid virus outbreak

Posted March. 16, 2020 07:55,   

Updated March. 16, 2020 07:55


As global airline networks de-facto collapsed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some airlines are making desperate measures of carrying only cargo.

According to an industry insider, Japan Airlines has been flying passenger planes loaded with cargo to China and Hong Kong currently halted due to the novel coronavirus. It is operating planes for cargo for six routes with heavy cargo traffic including Tokyo (Haneda)–Shanghai and Tokyo (Narita)–Hong Kong routes. It also plans to fly three temporary planes from Tokyo (Narita) to Incheon within this month to process delayed cargo transport, replacing the Seoul (Gimpo)–Tokyo (Haneda) route that has been suspended since February 9.

All Nippon Airways has also been using passenger flights to send cargo to China since February. There is increased demand for cargo transport between Japan and China as the spread of the virus slowed down and factory operation of Chinese businesses partially resumed. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific has decided to fly cargo planes only in the near future for the routes to Japan, which has been suspended until the end of March, because of the Japanese government’s entry prohibition.

Domestic carriers are doing the same. Korean Air has been transporting emergency cargo and agricultural products for Korean businesses in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on passenger planes since Friday. The route has been suspended since March 3 after the Vietnamese government put an entry restriction on Korean passengers. Korean Air plans to start cargo transportation from Saturday to replace the its Qingdao route that was suspended on Feb. 25. Asiana Airlines and Jeju Air are also reviewing similar plans.

Airliners are operating cargo transportation without passengers as most countries that imposed entry restrictions on foreign nationals because of the coronavirus did not restrict the entry of planes. Moreover, there is a sharp increase in the demand for urgent cargo transportation as factories around the world shut down and many routes are suspended. Airliners are absorbing the demand for cargo transportation. “We can reduce fixed cost arising from parking planes at the airport while maintaining suspended routes,” said an industry insider.

Hyung-Seok Seo skytree08@donga.com