The COVID-19 epidemic gave birth to the “preighter.” The name was coined by Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) chief executive Carsten Spohr, who combined the words “passenger” and “freighter” to describe a means for airlines to quickly increase cargo capacity by transporting cargo in passenger cabins.
Prior to the pandemic, around half of all global air freight was carried in the cargo hold of passenger flights. As passenger flights were halted owing to travel restrictions, freight capacity was lost as well.
However, the epidemic increased the demand for air freight to transfer protective gear and medical supplies around the world.
With no passengers, airlines began devising new ways to transport freight in aircraft cabins, such as specially constructed seat bags and crates that maximize cargo-carrying capacity while avoiding damage to the seat or in-flight entertainment systems. Some airlines have even removed seats entirely to provide extra cargo space.
However, the freighter’s time is drawing to a close. EASA, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency, has stated that it will not issue authorizations for freight movement in passenger cabins beyond July 31, 2022.
Since 2020, the government has started giving case-by-case approvals and exemptions for such operations to help alleviate cargo congestion.
“Following a review of the operational context for transport of cargo in the passenger cabin, the agency has concluded that the logistical challenges that arose in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 crisis no longer exist to the same extent,” EASA said in a statement.
With countries throughout the world loosening travel restrictions, several airlines are reporting increased bookings and demand.
Despite the fact that capacity constraints are lessening, many cargo businesses have predicted that 2022 will be another high year for air freight, because to e-Commerce demand and supply chain bottlenecks caused by the pandemic.
The high demand for aviation freight during the epidemic has resulted in a flurry of requests for new freighter aircraft or full conversions of passenger planes (P2F).
The International Air Transport Association said on April 6 that demand for air freight climbed 2.9 percent year over year in February 2022, though it cautioned that the situation in Ukraine and rising fuel prices could pose challenges to the business.