Coronavirus: SIA's Scoot modifies aircraft to carry only cargo

The modified aircraft took off from Fuzhou, China to Changi Airport on Aug 22 carrying a total of 13 tonnes of cargo. PHOTO: SCOOT

SINGAPORE - Budget carrier Scoot has modified one of its planes to carry only cargo from August.

Scoot, Singapore Airlines' low-cost arm, removed all the seats of one of its A-320ceo aircraft, doubling the aircraft's cargo-carrying capacity to nearly 20 tonnes.

"With many passenger aircraft sitting idle due to the pandemic, Scoot started operating cargo charters to carry essential supplies as an alternative revenue stream," said Scoot chief executive Campbell Wilson in a statement on Monday (Aug 24).

The modified aircraft took off from Fuzhou in China to Singapore's Changi Airport last Saturday carrying a total of 13 tonnes of cargo, comprising mostly essential items.

Although Scoot has been operating more than 200 cargo charters to and from 10 cities such as Perth in Australia and Hangzhou in China since March, this is the first time the carrier has removed all seats on a passenger plane so it can transport cargo.

Scoot is one of the first airlines in the region to operate a cargo chartered flight with a modified aircraft.

The modifications on the A-320 plane took four days to complete and to put in place safety precautions , such as installing placards to demarcate areas where cargo can be placed and adding fire extinguishers.

At least two pilots and two cabin crew will be on board for flights to ensure smooth and safe operations and to manage any inflight emergencies, the statement said.

Four more flights are scheduled in August for the modified aircraft.

The cabin before (top left) and after modification (top right). The modifications took four days to complete and to put in place safety precautions. PHOTOS: SCOOT

Another A-320 is scheduled to undergo similar modification this week.

Scoot's pivot from carrying passengers to cargo comes as the aviation industry encounters more stringent border controls amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with many airlines cutting back on the number of passenger flights as demand for air travel plummets.

Director-general of Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) Kevin Shum said: "Scoot has responded nimbly to the market conditions during these challenging times to meet demand for airfreight.

"CAAS is happy to support their efforts in modifying their passenger aircraft to carry cargo in the cabin.

"The modified aircraft would enable Scoot to mount freight services between Singapore and key trading markets," he added.

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