Airlines are making big changes to how they operate in the face of COVID-19. In addition to the growth of dedicated cargo service—including Atlas Air taking at least one 747 freighter out of storage—airlines are getting creative in how they carry cargo shipments that would normally fly with passengers.

The most extreme solution—take out the seats

To support the transportation of critical medical supplies, China Eastern has modified two of its A330s by taking out most of the economy cabin seats. A330s B-5961 and B-5973 are now operating between China and cities in Europe carrying bulky, but light cargo like gowns, gloves, and masks.

China Eastern A330 fligth pathStarting a cargo airline overnight

As passenger demand has dried up and travel banned between certain countries, airlines have responded to the continuing need to move cargo by pressing their passenger jets into cargo service. Airlines like Cathay Pacific, United Airlines, Qatar Airways, and American Airlines are using aircraft that would normally carry passengers for scheduled cargo service.

United aircraft carrying cargo onlyUnited has been using the 2XXX series for their cargo-only flights. You can use call sign filters ‘UAL27’ and ‘UAL28’ to view these flights. For American Airlines, most flights appear to be using the AAL94XX block, so ‘AAL94’ in the call sign filter will show these flights.

Qatar Cargo-only flightsQatar Airways is operating schedule cargo service to China with passenger aircraft using the QTR8XX block, use ‘QTR8’ in the call sign filter to see these flights.

This list is incomplete and we’ll be adding more as airlines make adjustments to their operations. Have information you’d like to share about new or unique cargo operations? Let us know in the comments below.

Ian Petchenik’s love of aviation began at an early age growing up next to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. As Flightradar24’s director of communications and co-host of the AvTalk podcast Ian now gets to share that passion for aviation with millions of Flightradar24 users and listeners around the world.

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6 comments

  1. Dave Kennnedy

    Aer Lingus doing multi flights with A330-300’s DUB-PEK-DUB carrying PPE IN hold and cabin up to five return a day.

  2. Marcus Günther

    Aer Lingus using A333’s to fly PPE from China to Ireland. Flight numbers EIN90xx. Example: https://www.flightradar24.com/EIN9018/24506e72

  3. David Grove

    Aer Lingus have made 16 flights DUB – PEK with their passenger A330s to collect PPE and other medical equipment in the last week

  4. Javier

    I see that most cargo planes in and out of the U.S. make, or seem to make a stopover in Anchorage Alaska. Why is that?

  5. Jeremy

    To answer Javier’s question, they stop in Anchorage for fuel. They can carry greater cargo weight if they take less fuel, so it makes economic sense to stop enroute, not far off a direct track. Cargo doesn’t complain about a stop!

  6. A C

    Air Canada is converting 3x B777-300ER to take cargo on the main deck. C-FITU is outfitted now, doing runs with AC22*.


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