Can a passenger airliner run as a freighter with today’s tariffs? Part 3.

By Bjorn Fehrm

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April 16, 2020, © Leeham News: In last week's article we saw the present high air freight prices can support a belly-cargo operation with a passenger airliner when flying the hot routes from Asia to North American and Europe.

But the aircraft shall fly the return route as well, with as much belly cargo as possible. And last week's freight prices are volatile. We dig deeper this week and look at the total equation with return flights, different levels of load factors, and price variations.

At what level is an operational belly freighter better than a grounded passenger jet?

Figure 1. American Airlines is increasing its belly cargo operation step by step since the launch on March 20. Source: American Airlines.

  • Last week we saw the belly cargo operation with passenger aircraft make sense in today's market if we fly the prime routes, Asia to North America or Europe.
  • When one includes the return trips the case is less clear cut. But it's still sensible as long as aircraft and crews are sitting idle and can't be used for other purposes.

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