SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Korea Bizwire) — Asiana Airlines Inc., South Korea’s second-biggest carrier, said Thursday it has converted three passenger jets into cargo planes to offset a sharp decline in air travel demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Asiana has converted an A350-900 passenger jet and two B777-200ER jets into cargo carriers, with the two B777-200ERs already in service on Asian routes and the A350-900 scheduled to fly on the Incheon-Los Angeles route late Thursday, a company spokesman said over the phone.
The A350-900 will be switched to the Incheon-Ho Chi Minh City route in October, he said.
Asiana said it may consider making another request to the transport ministry to convert more passenger jets into cargo planes if cargo demand continues to rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The carrier expects its overall cargo volume will increase by 27 tons to 1,179 tons after the conversion.
The move is in line with global airlines, which are now using their passenger planes for cargo flights, either by using cargo seat bags or removing seats.
In June, Asiana’s bigger rival, Korean Air Lines Co., began to carry cargo in cargo seat bags, which attach to the seats of passenger jets, as the pandemic drove down travel demand and its earnings.
Early this month, the national flag carrier injected two converted B777-300ER planes on the U.S. routes to transport cargo.
Cargo-carrying demand has jumped this year as more than 180 countries and territories closed their borders or imposed entry restrictions on incoming passengers amid virus fears.
Increased cargo demand helped airlines offset a sharp decline in air travel demand in the April-June quarter.