British Airways removes seats from 777 for COVID-19 cargo while Air France keeps cabin installed

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British Airways will join Lufthansa in Europe to remove seats from passenger planes to free up more space to transport cargo, including medical supplies such as personal protective equipment.

But Air France will not join its counterpart airline groups and will keep seats installed on its passenger planes used for cargo flights only.

“The seats are coming out,” said IAG CEO Willie Walsh. “We will use these planes to transport cargo in the passenger cabin without the seats being installed. “

Walsh said British Airways would “change” 777. He did not specify which cabins would have seats removed, but other airlines, including Lufthansa (below), are only removing economy seats, which include fewer parts.

British Airways operated cargo-only flights with 777-300ERs in their normal configuration, placing cargo on and under the seats. But maintaining the seats limits capacity and flexibility.

Regulators and aircraft manufacturers have worked to issue new guidelines on how to safely transport cargo in the passenger cabin.

MORE FORBESHow Air Canada quickly transformed 777 passenger planes into quasi-freighters to transport medical supplies

Air Canada, Air China and LATAM have removed seats from their 777-300ERs.

Air France will not join them.

“We fly several 777-300ER passenger aircraft without customers and also use customer cabins for freight,” said Benjamin Smith, CEO of Air France-KLM.

“We have all the capacity on the seats, under the seats, in the aisles and in the overhead compartments as well as the very large capacity of loading the planes below in the bellies,” he explained.

In addition to the 777-300ER, the KLM 747 Combis are temporarily used for freight, as the Combi variant already has a dedicated cargo compartment on the main deck, behind a shortened passenger cabin. Once the crisis is over, KLM will withdraw the 747s.

Air France has dedicated all-freight aircraft, 777F. The same goes for Lufthansa with the 777F and MD-11, but Lufthansa has nevertheless modified four A330s to remove the seats in order to increase the cargo space in the passenger cabin. Lufthansa’s sister, Switzerland, could cut seats on three of its 777-300ER.

IAG airlines, including British Airways, do not have dedicated cargo aircraft.

In May, British Airways plans to exceed 422 cargo flights last month, which carried more than 2,000 tonnes of personal protective equipment, Walsh said. “We are adapting as much as possible to meet existing freight demands. “

British Airways has flown up to 21 cargo flights a week only from China to the UK. Other cargo destinations include Dubai, Johannesburg and Zurich.

Sister carrier IAG Aer Lingus has flown up to five daily flights between Beijing and Dublin on A330s with seats installed.

The sudden and significant presence of Aer Lingus in China is notable given that Aer Lingus has had no recent operating experience in Eastern Europe; its network is focused on Europe and North America.

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