Emirates Turns Its A380s Into Mini Freighters

Dubai-based Emirates has moved to meet increasing demand in the cargo market, and is starting to use its parked Airbus A380 superjumbos as cargo planes. As the airline industry waits for an upturn in passenger traffic after a disastrous year due to COVID-19, Emirates has modified its Airbus A380s to carry freight.

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Emirates is using its A380s to carry medical supplies. Photo: Emirates

In a statement released earlier today and carried by news wire service Bloomberg, each modified Airbus A380 can now hold 50 tons of cargo in the aircraft’s belly. The move comes as a direct response to an increased demand for critical medical supplies in parts of the world where the coronavirus pandemic is making a resurgence.

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Most Emirates A380s are grounded

While the Gulf-state airline still operates passenger flights on some of its A380s, most of its fleet of 114 superjumbos are sat idle. The ongoing medical emergency and the closing of borders by many countries to help combat the virus’s spread has many people who would typically travel staying home. While repatriation flights and the occasional air-bridge between countries has convinced some people that it is safe to fly, leisure travel is virtually non-existent.

The A380 can carry 50 tons of cargo

In June, Emirates decided to convert ten of its Boeing 777 passenger aircraft to carry freight, enabling them to move around 67 tons of cargo per flight. You would think that the Airbus A380, which can carry 500 passengers, would have been a better choice than the triple seven, but it is not.

The A380 can only manage 50 tons of freight because its double-deck construction provides only limited cargo space in the aircraft’s belly. The fix here would be to utilize the plane’s seating area to carry cargo. This is something that Emirates says it is working at doing.

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A Boeing 777 can carry more cargo than an Airbus A380. Photo: Emirates

With passenger demand not expected to return to pre-COVID-19 levels before 2023, Emirates’ A380s will be some time coming back. When Emirates released its winter schedule in September, there was a noticeable lack of flights utilizing the A380. Along with reducing the frequency of flights to the United States, Emirates has removed its superjumbos on many routes. If you want to fly on what most people say is their favorite aircraft, the only places you’ll find its A380 service is from Dubai to Amsterdam, Amman, Cairo, Paris, London Heathrow, and Guangzhou.

Airlines are retiring A380s early

Emirates bet big on the four-engine A380 and now looks like it is committed to flying the aircraft for at least ten more years. However, other carriers who were not as heavily invested in the A380 were looking to the future.

Emirates cabin crew on A380
Emirates is looking at how it can carry cargo on the seats of its A380s. Photo: Emirates

The Four-engine giant is a very thirsty plane and no match for modern fuel-efficient twin-engined planes. Because of this, plans were already in place for the A380s retirement. Now with COVID-19, many airlines have brought the retirement plans forward. Air France-KLM has decided to remove the A380 from their fleet while Deutsche Lufthansa AG has its A380s mothballed.

What do you think of Emirates using the A380 as a cargo plane? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.