Alaska Airways worker Jeff Ferguson hundreds cargo at Ted Stevens Anchorage Worldwide Airport in Anchorage, Alaska.
Mark Thiessen | AP
Alaska Airlines is popping two of its midlife Boeing 737-800s into cargo planes, a guess that the pandemic increase in air freight will proceed to generate income even after extra passengers return to journey.
The Seattle-based airline, the nation’s fifth-largest, already has three smaller Boeing 737-700s devoted solely to air freight. It is a small quantity for a service whose mainline fleet stood at 217 planes on the finish of 2021, however the pandemic has made cargo extra vital to airways.
Covid pressured passenger carriers to chop flights, decreasing stomach area in planes world wide that might usually carry every thing from reside animals, packages, produce and prescription drugs. That drove up demand — and costs — for air cargo.
Alaska has put out a request for proposals to transform the 2 planes to air cargo and hasn’t but settled on a provider. The rise in its cargo fleet might prolong past the 2 planes, nevertheless it hasn’t but dedicated to including extra.
“I do not suppose the magic quantity is 2,” Adam Drouhard, the airline’s managing director of cargo, advised CNBC.
The brand new planes shall be devoted to serving locations within the state of Alaska.
Cargo analyst Stephen Fortune mentioned the conversion of a passenger jet right into a freighter, which entails ripping out passenger seats and overhead bins, reinforcing the aircraft’s flooring, and reducing a cargo door for simpler loading, can price round $5 million.
Alaska debuted transformed 737-700s in 2017, however Drouhard mentioned he expects that increasing past the 2 planes shall be simpler than the conversions of 5 years in the past as a result of it isn’t an altogether new program: 737-800 conversion traces are already obtainable.
“It is not going to be as large of a ramp up with one each eight to 10 years,” he mentioned.
In 2021, 101 passenger planes had been transformed to freighters, up from 59 in 2019 and 71 in 2020, in keeping with IBA Perception.
Most different U.S. passenger airways do not function standalone freighter plane however have benefited from the rise in cargo demand in the course of the pandemic. Some carriers flew passenger planes with empty seats and full cargo bellies when demand for journey plummeted in 2020.
Cargo income for United Airlines, which does essentially the most long-haul worldwide flying of the U.S. carriers, introduced in $2.35 billion final yr, up greater than 42% from 2020 and double 2019, earlier than Covid hit. Air freight made up nearly 10% of its gross sales final yr, in contrast with 3% earlier than Covid.
Low-cost and leisure-focused airline Sun Country began flying cargo for Amazon in 2020 on freighters for the e-commerce big’s air unit, a plan it drew up in 2019 however sped up in the course of the pandemic.