***Update on 04/25/2020 @ 15:40 UTC- Inserted additional details from Delta***
As of April 23rd, Delta Air Lines has become the first airline in the United States to obtain the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly cargo in the passenger cabin. The airline will be able to now offer more cargo capacity on its widebody cargo-only flights from Asia.
Delta can now fly cargo in the passenger cabin
As airlines shift towards flying cargo-only flights amid a sharp decrease in passenger demand, companies are getting creative when it comes to flying cargo. Medical supplies and other essential goods are in high demand around the world. While some of this would normally fly alongside passengers, the suspension of those flights is putting a strain on global cargo chains.
So, to counteract that drop, Delta is flying cargo-only flights to Seoul and Shanghai. Twice-daily flights are in operation between Shanghai and Seoul and then from Seoul to key US gateways like Detroit, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. It is at these gateways that the goods can transfer to domestic flights.
On those flights, Delta operates Airbus A350-900 and Boeing 777-200ER jets that can carry 42 tons of cargo in the hold. However, the passenger cabin would go out empty.
Now, per a press release, the FAA has granted Delta the ability to store cargo in the passenger cabin. On widebody aircraft, the airline can now use overhead bins to carry goods. This will add plenty of capacity for Delta to transport smaller essential supplies like masks or gloves to the front lines in the US.
Shawn Cole, Vice President of Delta Cargo, had the following to say:
“We thank the FAA for their cooperation in allowing us to increase our cargo capacity. This really has been a joint effort across our business and will enable us to utilize the overhead bin space to move even more vital medical and protective equipment on each flight for the COVID-19 pandemic efforts.”
Delta confirmed to Simple Flying that there will be flight attendants in the cabin for the purposes of safety. You can read more about flight attendants on cargo-only flights here.
Future options for transporting more cargo
For now, Delta is researching opportunities to carry cargo on passenger seats as other airlines, such as Aerolineas Argentinas and Lufthansa, have done. In addition, the carrier is analyzing the removal of seats to carry more goods.
If cargo demand continues to go up, it would not be surprising to see Delta take these steps. With less money coming in from passenger bookings, cargo bookings offer a way for the carrier to make some money after posting a $534 million loss in the first quarter of 2020. Delta is also taking on bookings for cargo-only charters. With commercial international long-haul flying reduced to just a few destinations, there are plenty of jets available to conduct long-haul cargo-only services.
Do you think Delta should transport more cargo in the cabin? Let us know in the comments!