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Vienna, Austria - Lufthansa Group subsidiary Austrian Airlines halted its scheduled flight operations as of March 18. The 70 planes of the airline have been parked at the Vienna International Airport since then due to the travel restrictions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, a large part of the European carrier's long-haul fleet gears up for a new task. These planes will now transport medical supplies to the country, primarily from China and Malaysia. For this purpose, Austrian Airlines has already used the space on the aircraft seats in the passenger cabin in recent weeks, in addition to the cargo capacity in the belly.

Due to the strong demand, the operator has initiated the necessary certification process for the temporary conversion of passenger aircraft into freighters. The conversion of the first of two Boeing 777 aircraft already started at Austrian Technik in Vienna.

The removal of 270 of the 306 passenger seats from all travel classes has started with the aircraft bearing the registration OE-LPC and was completed on April 29. The conversion of the second long-haul jet with the registration OE-LPA will start on May 3 and is scheduled for completion on May, 7. The dismantling of the Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class seats will take about 500 man-hours per aircraft and increase the cargo capacity of the Austrian jets by about 35 percent.

The cargo volume that can be transported in the airplanes' belly as well as in the passenger cabin will thus be increased from around 210m3 to up until 280m3.

"The demand for cargo transportation, especially for medical protective equipment, is enormous. We are now making room for more cargo on our long-haul jets. This will bridge the time until our passenger business starts up again," 

said Austrian Airlines Chief Operating Officer Jens Ritter this step.

"As soon as the demand for travel picks up again, we can convert the aircraft back into passenger planes at any time,"

he added.
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