Korean Air's idle passenger aircraft equipped with cargo seat bags departed for Chicago on Thursday to transport 1.67 million masks. A cargo seat bag capable of holding about 225 kilograms of cargo can be easily installed and used to carry commercial cargo, medical equipment and humanitarian supplies.
Due to a COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of airlines are now using their passenger aircraft for cargo flights. Some airlines have even removed seats to convert their passenger cabins into cargo holds.
In South Korea, carrying cargo other than passenger-cargo compartments and overhead stowage bins has been banned for safety reasons, but at the request of airlines, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport gave temporary approval to in-flight cargo transportation on condition of seat fixings and special packaging.
Passenger flights, which account for about 50 percent of air freight, have seen a drastic decrease in recent months, but the demand for the emergency transportation of medicines and medical equipment has increased.
International passenger traffic at Incheon International Airport, the main gateway of South Korea, fell 97.6 percent on-year to 138,000 in May. However, Korean Air's international cargo traffic rose nine percent in May.
Korean Air and its domestic rival, Asian Airlines, received emergency loans from state lenders after President Moon Jae-in pledged the injection of relief funds to rescue South Korea's troubled aviation and other key industries.
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