Qatar Airways throws passenger planes into China cargo schedule

Large, gray Qatar Airways at airport gate.

Qatar Airways said Monday it is resuming scheduled flights to China on its passenger network, but will only be moving cargo. 

The news is notable because it signals that China’s manufacturing and export capabilities are near normal levels following extensive quarantine measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and that there is a need for more air transport for cargo. It also is one of the first examples of an airline running passenger aircraft in cargo service on a scheduled basis versus the recent introduction of cargo-only passenger aircraft available to logistics companies and shippers for charter. 

The additional capacity from the widebody passenger planes supplements Qatar Airways fleet of freighters that operate on four routes, nearly doubling weekly capacity to 1,300 tons. Outbound demand is especially high for medical supplies, fresh produce and foodstuffs.

Beginning Monday through Wednesday, Qatar will operate seven weekly flights between Doha and Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, plus four times per week to Hangzhou, and  three times per week to Chengdu and Chongqing.

The decision to deploy more dedicated cargo planes follows the Chinese government’s promise to take steps to expedite logistics and airfreight business. 

From Doha, freight will connect to other aircraft for delivery to Europe, the Middle East and the Americas.

Many airlines are taking advantage of the shortage in air cargo capacity to repurpose passenger aircraft for dedicated cargo operations, usually on a charter basis, as previously reported.