LONDON – Emirates (EK) has today announced it will be adding more cargo capacity through the conversion of 10 Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft into cargo variants.

The carrier has removed all of the Economy Class seats, adding an extra 17 tonnes in the cabin on top of the 40-50 tonnes in the cargo hold already.

These aircraft will be used to cater to the strong demand for cargo, especially for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), medical equipment, food, machinery, and other supplies.

Comments from Emirates

Commenting on this news was Nabil Sultan, Emirates’ Divisional Senior VP for Cargo, who emphasized the need for strong connectivity.

“Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Emirates SkyCargo has taken very seriously its responsibility of connecting people and businesses across the world with the commodities that they urgently require.”

“To this end, we have been working flat out, first to re-connect a global network of more than 85 destinations and then to introduce capacity options that fit what our customers demand from us including passenger aircraft flying only with belly hold cargo and loading cargo in the overhead bins and on passenger seats.”

“Now, with the Emirates Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with modified Economy Class cabins, we will be able to transport even more cargo per flight, allowing for more cargo to reach their destination faster and for more efficient cargo operations.”

21 freight aircraft in total

It is understood that the efforts took 640 man-hours for such modifications to take place, including the removal of 305 Economy Seats from each aircraft.

Up to now, seven of the 10 aircraft are fully ready for entry-into-service with the other three expected to be ready by the middle of next month.

At this point, a total of 3,050 seats would have been removed, of which the airline was keen to note would “be safely and hygienically stored away till the time aircraft are required for passenger services.”

The 10 aircraft will join the SkyCargo fleet of 11 Boeing 777 Freighter variants operating to 85 destinations globally.

While passenger demand is low

It remains clear that as this pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the world, the cargo industry is beginning to grow even more.

For commercial airlines, converting such passenger aircraft into cargo units is beginning to become more beneficial whilst passenger demand is low.

Firms such as Virgin Atlantic (VS) and European Aviation Group have been sending out millions of units of PPE per week in an effort to capture that part of the market.

Signs of the times

This was backed up by the words of Ahmed Safa, the Divisional Senior VP of Emirates Engineering.

“Converting our passenger aircraft to these mini freighters is certainly a sign of the times. Our teams have shown resilience, an innovative spirit, and adapted quickly to the needs of the changing business environment.”

“We have risen to the twin challenges of new procedures and safety protocols within set timelines, and we are extremely proud of what we have achieved.”

It will be interesting to see how long EK will need these aircraft in the cargo format and how much of a positive impact it is going to have on the rest of the world as the pandemic continues to unfold.