TAP Air Portugal Has The World’s First Makeshift A330neo Freighter

TAP Portugal has become the first airline in the world to convert an A330-900 for cargo operations. The airline has taken the seats out of not just one, but two of its relatively new A330neos to give it more space for boxes. So far, the neos have been flying to China roughly every three days to bring vital PPE back for Portugal’s health workers.

TAP Portugal A330 neo
TAP has removed the passenger seats from two A330neos. Photo: TAP Portugal

TAP in an A330neo freighter first

TAP Portugal is an airline that likes to be first. When Airbus launched the A330-900, a neo-ised version of its popular widebody, TAP was the launch operator. Now, with 19 A330neos in its fleet, TAP has become the first airline to operate a passenger to cargo converted A330neo too.

The airline has taken two of its A330s and stripped them of passenger seats. It’s a common modification in these strange times, something we’ve seen many other airlines undertaking with everything from the huge Boeing 777 to the tiny Dash 8. Now TAP has proven the same can be achieved with the highly efficient A330neo, not once but twice.

The two aircraft converted are two of the newest neos in TAP’s fleet. CS-TUQ is a six-month-old A330-900, owned outright by TAP, which was delivered in February this year. The second, CS-TUJ, is slightly older, having been delivered in July last year, but is not an old aircraft by any means.

TAP A330neo cargo
The seats were stripped out of the economy cabin to make room for cargo. Photo: TAP Portugal

As such, it’s no big surprise that TAP has been incredibly careful in converting these aircraft. The previous configuration of 34 business class and 264 economy class seats has been reconfigured to business class only, as the economy seats have all been removed to make way for cargo.

Getting the conversion done

TAP appears to have only removed the seats from the economy class cabin of the A330s. The seats themselves were carefully wrapped and removed, and then all the wiring for the IFE system was taken out too. The airline then added fire extinguishers to the cabin for safety, before covering the carpet in plastic sheeting to protect it from dirt and damage.

The conversion, undertaken in partnership with Portuguese transportation specialist Olicargo, has increased the volume of cargo capacity by some 100 cubic meters. It will allow TAP to transport many more masks and other medical equipment to Portugal for use in the National Health Service, as it continues to fly every three days between China and its home in Porto.

Olicargo sang the praises of the TAP team on the swift conversion of the A330sm, saying it was “thanks to the dedication, professionalism, and mission spirit of a vast team that, in record time, made this noble project possible.”

OLICARGO e TAP Air Portugal voam mais alto juntas no combate à COVID19!Aterrou esta manhã no Aeroporto do Porto o…

Posted by Olicargo on Sunday, 24 May 2020

Flying to China

With its new A330neo freighter conversions in place, TAP has completed another first, making its first trip to Xiamen in China. The two A330neos flew in convoy, with one peeling off from Xiamen while the other headed to Beijing to collect medical supplies. On this mission, TAP transported no less than 25 tons of aid to assist in the fight against COVID-19.

While TAP is not the only operator to be using the A330 for cargo movements, it is the first to take the bold step of removing the seats to make way for boxes. For the airline, it’s a great way to support the efforts of the health service, while generating valuable revenue in these difficult times.