TAP Air Portugal Ups Its Fleet Of Makeshift Freighters

Although certain commercial passenger markets are recovering, there is still a demand for cargo capacity around the world as travel restrictions persist. As a result, TAP Air Portugal is adding to its “preighter” (passenger freighter) fleet with an additional A321. This jet will join TAP’s existing three A330-200s, which have had their passenger cabins stripped of seating to accommodate cargo.

TAP Air Portugal Ups Its Fleet Of Makeshift Freighters
A single A321ceo will be modified to take cargo on its main passenger deck, in addition to the standard bellyhold. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons 

Four modified passenger jets in the TAP fleet

According to the Portuguese website Transportes & Negócios, TAP Air Portugal is adding an A321ceo to its preighter fleet. Stripped of its passenger seating, the aircraft will offer 100 cubic meters, or 22 tons of payload, Miguel Paiva Gomes notes. Gomes, the Global Chief Cargo Officer for TAP, also tells Transportes & Negócios that its six hours of flight time will allow it to serve destinations in North and West Africa.

With TAP (and the international aviation sector) still experiencing reduced passenger activity, the airline has decided to capitalize on its idle jets. In fact, Gomes also stated that there is a possibility of converting a second A321, although the decision has yet to be made.

With a return to regular passenger service this July, the A321 will have around three months to act as a freighter. After that, it will have its seats returned to serve TAP’s busy summer schedule.

TAP Air Portugal Ups Its Fleet Of Makeshift Freighters
What an A320 passenger cabin looks like when transporting cargo. In the case of this Jazeera Airways jet, the seats were left installed. Photo: Jazeera Airways

One A321 and three A330s

Choosing to use its much newer A330-900s for passenger services, TAP Air Portugal has already modified three A330-200s to transport freight. According to Planespotters.net, the airline has a total of five A330-200s. The remaining two A330ceos are marked as ‘parked.’ The three widebodies serving as preighters are as follows:

  • CS-TON (modified in November 2020)
  • CS-TOO (modified in February 2021)
  • CS-TOP (modified in December 2020)

All three jets are around 13 years old and have flown exclusively with TAP since they were delivered from Airbus in 2008.

TAP Air Portugal Ups Its Fleet Of Makeshift Freighters
Three of TAP’s A330-200s are flying as preighters, while the other two are listed as parked. Of the airline’s 19 A330-900s, 13 are listed as active. Photo: Joao Carlos Medau via Wikimedia Commons 

The widebody jets have a capacity of about 200 cubic meters and have transported everything from medical and hospital supplies to COVID-19 vaccines. Gomes says these are now deployed “at the service of the economy, benefiting from the scarcity of supply,” adding that the main markets for TAP’s cargo services are Brazil, the USA, Venezuela, Colombia, Angola, and Mozambique.

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At this point, it is unknown which of TAP’s three A321-200s will be modified. All three jets, which have an average age of 19 years, are currently listed as parked.

Do you think TAP Air Portugal should convert more of its jets to capitalize on cargo demand? Or should it hold back and be ready for the return of passenger demand?