Temporary use of passenger planes to transport freight or ‘preighting’ has come to an end across Europe, suggesting the beginning of the recovery of the aviation industry. A temporary exemption allowing preighting was introduced during the pandemic as passenger flows dried up, and governments diverted passenger planes to transport medical equipment, masks and PPE across the globe.
The European Air Safety Agency (EASA) has ended the exemption, now banning any preighting from July 31. This might not be all bad though, as less urgent demand for medical protection and more demand from passengers to travel indicates a promising return of normality for airlines.
During the height of pandemic, whilst almost all long-haul operations were suspended, preighting allowed airlines to increase their cargo capacity, using passenger decks for cargo. This exemption from the ban provided a welcome stop gap for airlines. Emirates Airlines found it profitable enough to convert several their Airbus A380s into mini freighters, ripping out whole sections of seats so larger cargo could be transported.
However, as airlines fight to build business again, more and more aircraft are returning to passenger-only flights. Levels of tourism alone are increasing quickly, Eurocontrol reported Ryanair is now operating with more flights than before COVID with 2,779 flights last week, a 10% increase compared with the same time period in 2019.
Photo courtesy of KLM.