Austrian Airlines Converts Boeing 777 Into A Freighter

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In a move designed to keep Austrian Airlines aircraft flying, while at the same time helping to transport vital personal protective equipment (PPE), Austrian Airlines is converting a Boeing 777-200 into a freighter. The announcement made yesterday follows similar moves by partner airline Lufthansa to expand cargo capacity to meet the demand of the on-going COVID-19 emergency.

Inside Austrian Airlines Boeing 777 without the seats. Photo: Austrian Airlines

In a message posted late last night on American professional networking site LinkedIn, Austrian Airlines CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech talked about converting one of Austrian’s six Boeing 777-200 into a freighter.

The move is designed to help transport PPE

When letting his business contacts know how Austrian Airlines was coping during the coronavirus pandemic, the 50-year-old German posted the following message on LinkedIn and Twitter.

“We are removing the seats from one of our Boeing 777-200s to provide more space for the transport of medical and protective equipment.”

Just ten days earlier, German national flag carrier Lufthansa announced that, in cooperation with its sister airline Austrian Airlines, it would be adding 51 cargo flights a week between Germany and Austria to Asia. The Frankfurt-based airline said that before the ramping up of cargo capacity, it was operating 14 flights per week using widebody 777F freighters between Frankfurt and mainland China.

Lufthansa added 35 more cargo flights to China

Configured with standard load capacity, Lufthansa’s Boeing 777Fs can transport around 103 tons of cargo.

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Earlier Lufthansa had announced that, after the Easter holidays, it would add 35 weekly flights using passenger aircraft to transport cargo. According to Air Cargo News, the cabin space on Lufthansa’s long-haul aircraft can carry around 30 tons of cargo. Of the new flights, the German airlines say there will be two daily connections from Frankfurt to Shanghai and one daily flight to Beijing using Airbus A330-300 aircraft. Meanwhile, an Airbus A350-900 will fly daily from Munich to both Shanghai and Beijing.

In a move designed to increase the cargo space, Lufthansa says it will initially remove the seats from four of the planes to provide additional space for light goods such as face masks and other PPE goods.

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A Lufthansa 777F can carry around 103 tons of cargo. Photo; Lufthansa

For its part, Vienna-based Austrian Airlines is expected to operate 16 flights a week from Vienna International Airport.

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Austrian Airlines will fly to Shanghai eight times per week, Beijing five times per week, and Xiamen once a week. The Austrian national airline will also operate two flights per week to Penang International Airport in Malaysia.

On these routes, Austrian Airlines will deploy Boeing 767-300s and Boeing 777-200 aircraft.

EL AL was one of the first airlines to remove seats

Austrian Airlines and Lufthansa are not the first airlines to start removing seats from passenger planes to increase cargo volume with Israeli airline EL AL lifting seats from some of its Boeing 777s at the beginning of April. The step to increase cargo capacity on EL AL aircraft was taken ahead of the county’s strict coronavirus quarantine restrictions that the airline knew would lead to a reduction in passenger flights.

By removing the seats from a Boeing 777, Air Cargo News says that the aircraft is now capable of carrying 50 tons of cargo.

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