Pallets instead of passengers: air freight is supposed to save holiday airlines

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Pallets instead of passengers
Air freight is supposed to save vacation flyers

At the moment it is difficult to make money with airplanes, where hardly anyone can vacation abroad. One of the few bright spots in international air traffic is the freight market. Holiday airlines want a large piece of the cake and that's how passenger planes become "splendid".

The vacation airline Condor is currently heading for unusual destinations. The destinations are Shanghai, Lapland or Morocco; instead of sun-hungry tourists, there are corona test kits, car parts or even entire test vehicles on board. "Boxes instead of people" is the concept that is not only intended to help the Condor out of the Corona misery. The Frankfurters have converted half of their 16 long-haul Boeing 767 aircraft, as spokeswoman Magdalena Hauser reports. With the help of the freight broker ECS, they are looking for worthwhile contracts around the world.

According to the international airline association IATA, the freight market is one of the few bright spots in international air traffic. This is primarily due to the shortage of supply, because at normal times around half of the air freight is transported as additional cargo in passenger planes. Since these are not available due to the large number of connections that have been discontinued, freight prices skyrocketed last early summer.

Aircraft on the ground – high cost

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<p class=Lufthansa Cargo is currently using additional passenger planes from the other group airlines.

(Photo: picture alliance / dpa)

In the meantime, according to IATA, the companies have increased their capacity in pure cargo aircraft by 20 percent globally, but this is far from closing the supply gap. In Europe, a quarter of the pre-crisis level was missing in November, the association reported. The cargo rates will therefore remain high for the foreseeable future. They are all the more tempting for the holiday airlines because jets standing on the ground also cause high costs.

If a jet is to be mothballed in the long term, extensive and costly maintenance work is required. In addition, the personnel's licenses expire if there is no flight. It can be much cheaper to complete individual cargo flights instead of expensive simulator training.

Freight as a replacement for canceled vacation flights

The airlines in the Tui Group are also trying to replace some of the vacation flights that have broken down with freight offers. They work together with cargo brokers in order to use their own machines, especially on long-haul routes, for the transport of machine parts or medical products. "Many companies are currently trying to get the capacities and prices under control," says a Tui spokesman.

For example, more than 20 machines from the Tui Group brought protective masks to Germany in the spring. In the past few weeks there have been around 30 flights to the USA, Mexico or Argentina, mainly to transport parts for automotive and mechanical engineering companies to Baden-Württemberg. The company uses larger, unmodified jets such as the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner" or the Boeing 767 on such connections, sometimes up to five in a day.

Seats remain in "Prachtern"

The seats remain in most of the "Prachtern" (passenger freighters), reports Lufthansa Cargo, which is using additional passenger aircraft from the other group airlines during the Corona crisis – preferably Boeing 777 and Airbus A340 with comparatively large (inflatable) Holds. "The problem is the narrow doors on the passenger deck," explains a Lufthansa spokeswoman. Only light materials such as masks or protective suits can be stored on the seats, otherwise the cabin remains empty and the bulky cargo moves into the hold below.

In most years, the time between Christian Christmas and Chinese New Year (this time on February 12) is rather quiet in air freight, but Lufthansa Cargo assures that there is currently still little capacity in the market and revenues are high. The temporary closure of truck traffic to and from Great Britain caused some excitement and additional air freight orders.

The corona vaccine business, on the other hand, has only got off to a slow start: Currently, most of the cans are still being driven by truck to the vicinity of the factories instead of being flown around the world by plane. Tui continues to anticipate business opportunities in freight: "The market is still tense, so the freight alternatives will probably last longer."

. (tagsToTranslate) Economy (t) Aviation (t) Airlines (t) Corona crisis (t) Corona measures (t) Condor Flugdienst (t) IATA (t) Boeing (t) TUI