Alaska Air converting passenger jets to hold cargo only
Alaska Air Cargo plans to begin flying Alaska passenger jets as domestic cargo-only flights, which will carry only essential goods including seafood, mail, and medical equipment, according to the company.
The move comes after the airline cut back flights by about 80 percent due to the coronavirus crisis. If the Federal Aviation Administration approves the new cargo flights, they would begin next month.
Although the airline didn’t specify which routes would be affected, Alaska Air Cargo currently serves 19 stations in Alaska. The company may be using the newly announced flights to help make up for the gap caused by the chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of RavnAir earlier this month. The regional airline’s grounding of its fleet of 72 planes left many of the state’s remote cities, such as Unalaska, at a loss for how to distribute the seafood processed there, especially as salmon season nears.
“Our cargo customers depend on us as much as we do them to fuel our supply chain with life-saving medical treatments, medical supplies, and perishable foods that have a short shelf-life,” Alaska Cargo Marketing and Business Development Program Manager Rick Bendix said.
Alaska Air’s cargo fleet currently consists of three Boeing 737-700s. Five Boeing 737-900s usually used for passengers will be converted and used for cargo flights. While the seats will remain in the plane, boxes and mail will be placed on and under seats, and in overhead bins and closet space. Each flight wil be able to carry up to 30,000 pounds of cargo, including belly capacity.
"We're determined to help protect the resiliency of our nation's supply chain by connecting critical cargo to the communities we serve during this public health crisis," Alaska Air Cargo Managing Director Torque Zubeck said. "Our teams have been working tirelessly since March to identify the safest and most effective processes to increase our cargo capacity as quickly as possible."
The airline flies more than 200 million pounds of cargo annually, including 30 million pounds of seafood.
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