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Airline industry

Asiana Airlines converts A350 passenger jet into cargo carrier

Sep 24, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

South Korean airline Asiana Airlines Inc. has transformed its passenger aircraft A350-900 into a cargo carrier in a move to enhance its cargo operations, the company announced on Sept. 24. It is the first time for an A350 aircraft to be converted.

The newly transformed aircraft will debut as a cargo carrier on Thursday flying from Incheon, Korea to Los Angeles carrying 20 tons of cargo goods. In October, the A350 will travel mostly on routes with high cargo demand, such as between Incheon and Ho Chi Minh City.

Asiana Airlines removed 283 economy seats from the aircraft’s passenger cabin and installed pallets and iron panels on the floor, making room for 5 tons of additional cargo. The conversion will push up the airline’s cargo volume from 1,152 tons to 1,175 tons.

Global aircraft manufacturer Airbus has taken great interest in the A350 transformation. Asiana Airlines consulted with Airbus from the very beginning on the move, and the changeover was carried out under guidelines approved by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.
Cargo loaded onto converted A350 on Sept. 24 (Courtesy of Asiana Airlines) 

Cargo loaded onto converted A350 on Sept. 24 (Courtesy of Asiana Airlines)

The airline industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, causing most global airlines’ businesses to plummet. Meanwhile, domestic airlines have met the COVID-19 crisis by strengthening their global cargo networks, utilizing freighters, and riding on their years of experience in the cargo business.

The strategy proved to be effective as Asiana Airlines saw its cargo revenue climb 95% on year to 639.1 billion won alongside an operating profit of 115.1 billion won in the second quarter.

“Cargo sales have become important for our company's operations given the impact of the global pandemic. We will carry out our efforts responsibly," said Kim Kwang-seok, head of Asiana Airlines' cargo division.

Asiana Airlines is the second domestic carrier to convert passenger planes into cargo carriers. Earlier this month, the carrier's bigger industry rival Korean Air received approval from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport to overhaul its passenger jets as well.

Meanwhile, Asiana Airlines also enhanced two passenger jets -- B777-200ER -- by separating the bunk area in the lower deck to expand the belly cargo space. This procedure will allow each plane to load up to two tons of additional cargo.

Going forward, the domestic carrier may consider converting additional aircraft based on cargo demand and market trends.

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