Transport Canada officials worked side by side with Air Canada and its engineering contractor Avianor to get lightning fast (by bureaucratic standards) for Air Canada to convert passenger aircraft to freighters in the early days of the COVID-19 shutdown. Financial newsletter benzinga.com said representatives from all three organizations sat in the same room and worked through the issues that came up when the airline pitched removing the seats from three Boeing 777s to fill the upper decks of those aircraft with parcels and freight bags. Within a week, the approvals were in place and by mid-April the aircraft were carrying millions of swabs, masks and other desperately needed medical supplies to Canada.
Since then, the airline has added a fourth 777 and three Airbus A330s to its “preighter” fleet and has expanded operations to South America, Turkey, Atlanta and Cuba. “The converted aircraft are part of our strategy to continue offering capacity where passenger flights are not available. There is a lot of demand to use the cabins for mail and some perishables, in addition to continued demand for personal protective equipment,” Johanne Cadorette, manager of global marketing and communications for Air Canada Cargo, told the newsletter. U.S. airlines and the FAA seem less interested in the innovation even though the freight operation gave Air Canada a much-needed 52 percent increase in revenue in the second quarter.