Air Belgium Joins The Makeshift Freighter Movement

Air Belgium is one of the latest airlines to alter its aircraft to transport cargo more efficiently. In a social media post on Friday, the Belgian carrier shared before and after photos of one of its A340-300s with and without passenger seating. While passenger traffic has dropped drastically since February, airlines around the world have been using their aircraft to transport cargo – both in the hold and in the cabin.

Air Belgium A340
Air Belgium is both a scheduled and charter passenger carrier. Photo: Air Belgium

Air Belgium’s seat removal

“We push the seats to the side and momentarily make room to transport essential medical cargo back to Belgium”Air Belgium via LinkedIn

 

Airbelgium cargo conversion
The empty A340 passenger cabin. Photo: Air Belgium

Details about the airline’s seat-removal are few. However, we know that since Air Belgium exclusively operates the Airbus A340-300, the seats were removed from such an aircraft. We are trying to confirm with the airline if more than one A340 had its seats removed, or if it was just the one. The airline had not responded to our inquiry at the time of publication.

Air Belgium’s A340s are offered in two configurations. One has 45 lie-flat business class seats and 212 standard economy seats. The other configuration offers 32 business class seats followed by 21 recliner seats in premium economy, and 212 for standard economy.

Air Belgium Joins The Makeshift Freighter Movement
What Air Belgium’s A340 economy class would normally look like. Photo: Air Belgium

The latest in a series of seat removals

In early April, Air Canada was one of the very first airlines to remove the seats in its passenger aircraft to accommodate cargo better. Through the rest of April and May, we’ve seen similar moves from other airlines such as Finnair, Austrian, Lufthansa, and Icelandair.

Other airlines are taking a middle-approach and transporting cargo in their passenger cabins without removing seats. We’ve seen this with Irish carrier Aer Lingus and their special seat bags, as well as Kuwaiti airline, Jazeera Airways.

Seat bags
Seat bags hold additional cargo inside the Aer Lingus A330 passenger cabin. Photo: Aer Lingus
Air Belgium Joins The Makeshift Freighter Movement
Jazeera Airways is opting to keep its seats installed and place cargo on top. Photo: Jazeera Airways

Why it’s better to remove the seats

Removing passenger seating from the cabin has several benefits. Firstly, cargo is not limited by the space provided by the chairs. This is particularly helpful for boxes that may not stack perfectly or efficiently in the space between the seats. Secondly, with the seat gone, there is no way it can be damaged by cargo.

Finally, crew would not be hindered by walking down narrow aisles to load and unload boxes, making the entire process much easier and faster.

Of course, seats or no seats, crew are still needed to load and unload cargo from the cabin. This is because the doors to the passenger cabin aren’t big enough to have the same types of loading equipment get through.

Hopefully, now that the seats are removed from one of Air Belgium’s A340s, crews will have an easier time delivering PPE and other goods to where it is most needed.

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