LOT in talks with Boeing to convert Dreamliners into cargo planes
LOT Polish Airlines is in talks with US plane manufacturing giant Boeing to convert its fleet of 787 Dreamliners into cargo planes in a bid to ride out the global air traffic slowdown.
By switching to cargo, LOT hopes to cut its losses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has grounded virtually all passenger flights.
LOT spokesman Michał Czernicki told Reuters: “We are in talks with the aircraft manufacturer about ... adapting the passenger aircraft (Dreamliner) to cargo transport.
“If we get approval and meet all safety requirements, we will become the first airline in the world that will adapt the Dreamliner for such transport."
He added that no final decisions had yet been taken and that the move would be dependent on passenger and cargo flight demand.
There has been no comment from Boeing so far.
Passenger flights usually carry as much as half the world’s air freight with the remainder carried by specialised aircraft. Now a number of carriers have repurposed their passenger fleets by removing seats and filling the space with cargo.
Since the Polish government froze incoming flights in March, LOT has been chiefly used to repatriate Poles stranded overseas due to the pandemic.
Between March 15 and April 15, the airline brought home 54,000 Poles and foreigners entitled to assistance under the government’s #Lot DoDomu (#FlightHome) programme.
But that is small beer compared with the roughly 10 million passengers LOT serviced last year.
The national airline has been among the companies hardest hit by coronavirus counter-measures and is likely to receive state aid in addition to a package of mitigations the airline is negotiating with plane lessors, staff representatives and others.
In addition to repatriation flights, LOT has been using its surplus space to transport Personal Protective Equipment and other medical supplies Poland needs to fight coronavirus.