A Sneak Peek – Process of Passenger to Freighter Conversions

A Sneak Peek – Process of Passenger to Freighter Conversions

Before the pandemic, passenger travel served as the most profitable revenue stream for airlines, with cargo serving as a sub-revenue stream. Often, commodities are placed under cargo storage space along with passengers’ luggage, under airlines’ hope to transport goods by a direct route. However, the pandemic brought along passenger flight cancellations. As a result, the airline industry had to embrace its “turning tables”, as cargo became many airlines’ cash cows, and the ultimate way to compensate for losses.

One may belittle the efforts required to turn passenger aircraft into cargoes. Conversely, it is no easy task. But how is it done? Here are the processes:

Passenger-to-freighter conversions – A Case Study of A321 passenger aircraft

According to an interview conducted by Martin FENDT, the technical editor of Airbus with experts from Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), an aerospace manufacturer, the conversion of the A321 passenger aircraft involved multiple door removals, the installation of new door-surround structures as well as the modification of systems.

Unlike some aircraft that use nets as separations, the A321P2F possesses a Rigid Cargo Barrier (RCB) with a sliding door that connects with the main deck cargo compartment. Thus, to allow more storage space, the original door-surround structures were taken down and re-skinned as the RCB was moved to the forefront. Similarly, the aircraft’s back doors were also removed and reskinned to render extra spaces.

To securely keep commodities in place, aircraft would usually revamp their floor structures, either through reinforcement or the installation of stronger cross beams. In the case of the A321P2F, partially reinforced floor grids and freighter floor panels were incorporated.

The foremost left and right-hand doors were then substituted by a modified Crew Entry Door (CED), where a lavatory would be built to its right-hand side (with the original lavatory removed). To merge the cockpit and the courier area, the cockpit door is also eliminated.

Meanwhile, with just flight attendants who would board the cargo, the capacity of ventilation systems; water and waste systems, alongside the number of window plugs were also reduced. The hydraulic systems were also upgraded to accommodate heavy weights of commodities (Fendt, 2021).

Our own story – Chartering a Passenger to Freighter Converted Aircraft

In April 2021, our branch in Denpasar managed to charter Cebu airlines’ 5J282- a semi-freighter that was once a passenger aircraft – flying from Manila to Denpasar.

“It was our first time chartering a freighter that was previously a passenger aircraft, so it was a milestone for us.” the Denpasar branch manager, Mr.Setiawan said.

During the pandemic, the transporting of supplies ranging from PPEs, vaccines, and food resources are big necessities. Amidst the period where flight schedules are prone to change and cancellation, the logistics needed to find the best solution for its client.

“The freight charter was done because our client needed to transport fry fish. Thus, chartering a freight was the best option to ensure that it was shipped with a direct route.”

When asked whether current waves of P2F conversions will continue, Mr.Setiawan explained that though such conversions brought along more available freights for logistics to book, transporting goods through passenger aircraft remains the most ideal choice. In other words, it is unlikely to witness drastic increases, if not, remain stagnant.

Ultimately, regardless of what the future holds for both airlines and logistics, there is no doubt that P2F conversion is a “must-do” for airlines and a savior for logistics amidst this pandemic. Despite recent signs of reviving tourism and the loosening of travel bans across countries, cargo freight services remains a prospective business with a considerable source of revenue.


Fendt, M. (2021). [online] Available at: https://aircraft.airbus.com/sites/g/files/jlcbta126/files/2021-08/FAST-article-Passenger-to-Freighter.pdf [Accessed 26 Jul. 2022]

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