KLM Brings The Boeing 747 Out Of Retirement For Cargo Flights

Avgeeks around the world were sad last month as KLM operated its final Boeing 747 flight. The airline intended to retire the aircraft early due to the current crisis. However, KLM has already backtracked, bringing two Boeing 747 combis back into service.

KLM, Boeing 747, Reactivated
KLM will reactivate a couple of its Boeing 747 combi aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

For a long time, we knew that KLM would retire the Boeing 747 from its fleet in 2021. However, many were saddened to learn that the type would instead meet a speedy end at the end of last month. The blue KLM 747 has for long been an iconic symbol of the airline, however, all good things come to an end.

Back in service

After just over a week of retirement, the Boeing 747 is already back in the skies serving the Dutch flag carrier. The airline has reactivated two of its combi Boeing 747s. These have the ability to carry freight on the passenger deck, unlike most 747s.

We join hands with Philips and the Dutch government to create a special cargo air bridge between the Netherlands and…

Posted by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines on Thursday, 9 April 2020

The world is currently facing a shortage of cargo capacity according to KLM. This is true due to global aircraft groundings. Typically passenger aircraft carry cargo in their belly as an additional source of revenue. However, while the passenger aircraft are not flying, the freight carried by them is not moving. This has even seen some passenger airlines, such as British carrier Virgin Atlantic, operating dedicated cargo flights.

KLM is reactivating the aircraft in order to add to global cargo capacity from the 13th of April. The airline said that it is working with Phillips and the Dutch Government. The two aircraft will operate a cargo air bridge between China and The Netherlands.

The aircraft will operate with two weekly flights to Beijing and three weekly flights to Shanghai. This will allow the airline to carry some 250 tonnes of extra cargo capacity each way per week.

KLM, Boeing 747, Reactivated
The sky blue queen of the skies will take off again from the 13th of April onwards. Photo: KLM

Unfortunately, this means that the aircraft won’t be re-entering passenger service. The airline hasn’t said how long this cargo air bridge will remain operational.

What makes the 747 combi special?

KLM’s Boeing 747 combis are special. Carrying the designator 747-400M the aircraft is half passenger plane, half cargo aircraft. The aircraft has a huge cargo door on the side towards the back. This allows cargo containers to be loaded on the passenger deck in addition to the usual storage below the passenger deck.

As a result of the space saved for cargo, the economy cabin on the aircraft is around 40% smaller than on a dedicated passenger 747. Behind the economy section is a small galley and a wall. The wall separates the passenger and freight sections of the craft. It has a passage for crews to cross in an emergency, as well as strong fireproofing.

Boeing 747
KLM’s combis have previously carried precious cargo including pandas. Image: KLM

KLM has been known to carry some fairly special cargo in the rear section of the 747-400M before. In fact, in years past, the airline even carried a pair of Pandas to Europe in the rear of the aircraft.

Are you glad that the blue queen of the skies will be airborne once more? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.