Emirates presses A380 superjumbos into cargo action amid subdued passenger demand

Move comes in response to the increased need for critical goods such as medical supplies in regions experiencing a resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic

Dubai-based airline operates passenger flights on A380s to some destinations, most of the 115-strong fleet remains grounded.

Emirates has started using Airbus A380 superjumbos as cargo planes to meet a surge in demand for transported goods while awaiting a recovery in passenger air travel.

The world’s largest long-haul airline has adapted the A380 to carry about 50 tonnes of cargo in the belly of the aircraft, Emirates said in a statement on Wednesday.

The move comes in response to the increased need for critical goods such as medical supplies in regions experiencing a resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic, Emirates said.

While the Dubai-based airline operates passenger flights on A380s to some destinations, most of the 115-strong fleet remains grounded.

The ongoing pandemic has forced governments to impose quarantine requirements or close borders entirely to keep the coronavirus at bay, killing appetite for international leisure travel.

Emirates temporarily converted 10 Boeing 777 planes to carry more cargo in June, though that model is better suited to the task and can transport about 67 tonnes per flight.

The A380, which can seat more than 500 people, is tougher to convert as its two-deck layout provides only limited belly space. Emirates is working on improving the jumbo’s capacity through measures such as using seating space, the carrier said.

The A380 will be one of the last models to return to the skies with demand not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023 or later. Air France-KLM decided to retire the jet earlier than scheduled, while Deutsche Lufthansa has mothballed its fleet of the planes.

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