First, airlines filled the bellies of passenger planes for cargo-only flights. Then, they stacked boxes onto the seats and strapped them in place. As cargo demand kept increasing, and they realized they might be in the freight business for the long-haul, some of them started stripping out seats to increase capacity. On Friday, SWISS posted a video showing what the process of turning a Boeing 777 into a “CARRY-freighter” looks like.
While passenger demand has plummeted, demand for dedicated air cargo transport has risen significantly over the past few months. So much so, that commercial airlines have been transforming passenger jets into cargo-only by taking out seats to make way for pallets and boxes in the cabin. The makeshift solution aircraft have even been given their own name: “CARRY-freighters.”
This name is a mash-up of the word ‘cargo’ along with the ‘removal of Y class,’ or economy class seating. It’s not the most obvious outcome in the world, but we do prefer it to Lufthansa’s ‘preighter’ solution.
On Friday, SWISS posted a video to its Twitter account, showing just how the transformation of a passenger Boeing 777 into one of these CARRY-freighters takes place. In the footage, you can see how the seats in economy are removed by maintenance crew. Who, as a side note, are all wearing face masks.
Modification of a Boeing 777-300ER: In order to be able to transport additional cargo, the SWISS Economy seats were removed and the aircraft is converted into a so-called "CARRY-freighter" (Cargo with removed seats in Y-class). pic.twitter.com/FqGrcLAU9H
— Swiss Intl Air Lines (@FlySWISS) June 5, 2020
The story does not tell how by how much the video was sped up, and how long the seat removal actually takes, but it would appear to be done in a day. And, even if it requires some logistics, it does not seem to entail too many technical difficulties.
360 cargo-only flights by end of month
As previously reported, SWISS is turning four 777s into cargo-only for awhile. That is half of the eight that the airline has in its fleet. And it does not lack cause. SWISS has previously stated that come the end of June, it will have operated 360 cargo-only flights between Europe, Asia, and the US.
Through its airfreight division, SWISS WorldCargo, the carrier has been transporting supplies between Zurich and Toronto, New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, Shenzen, Beijing, Bangkok, and Singapore, among others. 777s have operated all of the long-haul cargo-only, so it makes sense to utilize their capacity as much as possible for maximum yield.
777 a popular cargo-only choice
The 777 has been a popular model for commercial airlines operating cargo-only flights. An American Airlines 777 broke the airline’s record for freight volume when it transported 115,349 lbs (52,321 kg) of soybeans from Buenos Aires to Miami in mid-April.
British Airways has converted two of its 777 for cargo. It will use it them in the continued effort transporting personal protective equipment (PPE) from China to the UK. The carrier had previously been flying three daily flights with regular, unconverted 777s from Beijing and Shanghai to London with equipment for the NHS.
Air Canada has also joined the 777 “CARRY-freighter” club and has modified three of the model, removing 422 seats from each aircraft. Austrian Airlines is also a member with one converted 777. SWISS and Austrian parent carrier Lufthansa has opted to modify four A350s and is working on the world’s first A380 cargo-only.