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Cargo to the rescue

When is a passenger plane not a passenger plane? When its seats are occupied not by people, but by essential medical equipment.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for airfreight is at an all-time high. We are doing our essential part by flying medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare workers on the frontline of this worldwide health crisis.

That means operating more freighter flights and deploying hundreds of cargo-only passenger flights to meet the increased demand. It also means converting our planes to get the most out of the space available to us. 

With the approval from the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department (HKCAD), we’ve started using the passenger cabins of our Boeing 777-300ERs to help transport medical supplies.

‘It is estimated that loading additional cargo on the passenger seats provides 30 per cent additional capacity on top of the belly cargo alone,’ said Paul Barwell, Cathay Pacific General Manager Programs & Airworthiness. 

The first of our converted passenger flights – from Hong Kong to Los Angeles – took place on 23 April, with our cabins transformed into cargo holds for packages containing medical face shields. With the help of airport ground staff, boxes were loaded via the passenger door using a catering truck. These new ‘passengers’ were then manually secured to their seats and in the overhead lockers, adding much-needed capacity. 

‘A lot of colleagues worked around the clock,’ says General Manager Cargo Commercial Nelson Chin. ‘My heartfelt thanks go to everyone behind the scenes – all the unsung heroes who made this all possible’.

As these 777s continue to serve our long-haul cargo markets, we’re also seeking approval from authorities to use our Airbus fleet for the same purposes. 

Next time you see a Cathay Pacific plane in the air, look again – the passengers may be essential workers of another kind.