Air New Zealand to retrofit 777-200 for cargo operations; operates its first cargo-only flight

Air New Zealand’s Chief Revenue Officer, Cam Wallace, has hinted at a possible retrofit of one of the carrier’s Boeing 777-200 to make more space for cargo. The aviation industry, notably the passenger side of it, has suffered immensely from the global coronavirus crisis. As such, airlines are moving to cargo operations to safeguard profits and support their respective countries and regions in this unprecedented public health threat.

An Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200 registered ZK-OKG which hasn't flown since 28 March. Photo by Duy Khang Tran │ AeroNewsX

“Our cargo and engineering teams from Air New Zealand are investigating the opportunity to extend cargo capacity by retro-fitting a 777-200,” explained Cam Wallace, Chief Revenue Officer at Air New Zealand.


This won’t be a full-freighter reconfiguration, however. Wallace said that they were looking at modifying part of a Boeing 777-200 and therefore not removing all passenger seats – an expensive feat.


More specifically, the airline is looking at a ‘bulk hold removal for pax [passenger] door manual loading’. When asked whether such a feat would be difficult to attain regulatory approval for, Wallace responded: ‘Apparently, it’s not too bad.”


In other news, Air New Zealand operated its first freight-only flight, to Shanghai. The Boeing 787 transported local products from New Zealand, including sea food, to Shanghai. On the return leg, the plane will bring home vital supplies. This is the first of many cargo-only services to be operated by Air New Zealand in the coming weeks, with four more flights having taken off bound for China today alone. This includes three more flights to Shanghai and one to Hong Kong.

An Air New Zealand Boeing 787, similar to the one that flew to Shanghai. Photo by Benjamin Liew │ AeroNewsX

There’s expected to be a lot of similar moves from airlines over the coming months as the coronavirus forces passenger flying to become almost entirely unprofitable. The International Air Transport Association estimates airlines will lose approximately USD252 billion in revenues. Cirium estimates that more than 8,500 passenger aircraft have been put into storage so far, which accounts for around 1/3 of the total global passenger fleet.

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