An A380, operated by Malaysia Airlines, took to the skies last week, transporting 26 tons of cargo. The first known cargo-only flight with an A380 flew from London to Kuala Lumpur and back. The flight, MH4, was organized by Malaysia Airlines subsidiary MASkargo.
A380 transports cargo
As air travel continues to be disrupted by the spread of COVID-19, the last recorded movement of Malaysia Airlines Airbus A380s was on the 19th of April. However, most of the sub-fleet has not been seen in the air since the beginning of March.
This all changed on the 28th of April when, 15 years since the first flight of its type, the A380 left Kuala Lumpur at 09:50. In place of passengers, the plane was carrying 26 tons of mostly e-commerce goods originating from Guangzhou.
The plane was also fully loaded upon the return leg. The flight, MH001, left London Heathrow at 11.35 am on the 29th of April, primarily transporting pharmaceutical products and mail.
The passenger to cargo project
“This is definitely an innovative and ‘beyond-the-box approach’ on our part; as no other Airbus A380 equipped airline that we know, has done this,” Ibrahim Mohamed Salleh, MASkargo’s chief executive, told Air Cargo News.
COVID-19 relief efforts and other business demands had meant that the maximum flying hours for freighters had been used, and so airlines have been looking at different ways to transport cargo. According to Ibrahim Mohamed Salleh, this resulted in the launch of the passenger to cargo (P2C) project, where the A350 passenger fleet was used to transport cargo.
However, due to the increasing volume of cargo and a decrease in the capacity into Heathrow, the originally scheduled A350 was unable to cater for the amount of freight MASkargo needed to move. Malaysia Airlines had no choice but to use the most significant aircraft in its fleet.
With the use of an A380 for air freight considered a huge success, Malaysia Airlines has stated that it will continue to operate flights to meet the medical and business needs of the world.
The future of the A380
Around half of the world’s air freight is transported in the bellies of passenger planes. With COVID-19 causing most of the world’s flights to be grounded, airlines are scrambling to backfill the cargo capacity lost due to the reduction in flights worldwide.
The A380 is the world’s largest passenger plane and is operated by only 15 airlines. Currently, the plane only has medium-size freight capacity, but this could be increased with the removal of seats.
A few days ago, it was revealed that Lufthansa Technik had been approached to help to support the temporary conversion of an A380 for freight use. With only 2% of the world’s A380s reported as currently flying, could the temporary conversion of the A380 into a cargo plane be the answer?
What do you think is the future of the A380? Let us known in the comments.