Seoul/Incheon-Based Korean Air has roped in extra cargo support by converting its first passenger-configured Boeing 777-300ER into a temporary dedicated freighter.
The widebody, understood to be 2010-built HL8208 (c/n 37645), operated its maiden cargo service on September 8 between Incheon and Columbus, Ohio in the US.
The former three-class, 291-seat airframe had 274 seats taken out in order to carry a combined 32.8-ton freight capacity – comprising 22 tons in the hold and 10.8 tons in the cabin. The conversion is a complex process that required the removal of “in-flight electric wiring and installing standardised locks” on the cabin floor to secure loads.
According to the airline, the move stemmed from an increased “demand for air cargo to and from Columbus” as the airport is home to several logistic centres. Items being transported include clothes, electronic devices and automobile parts.
During the pandemic, Korean Air utilised grounded passenger widebodies including the 787-9 and Airbus A330-300 to carry personal protection equipment (PPE) in the belly holds. Between April and September, it operated 420 cargo-only rotations transporting more than 12,000 tons of goods per month.
Meanwhile, according to The Korea Herald, the flag carrier posted a profit of US$125.2m in Q2 this year – becoming the world’s only major operator to do so – thanks to its cargo operations during the height of COVID-19.