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Azul Makes World’s First E-Jet Cargo Conversion
As the industry forecasts a repressed demand for the months and years to come due to the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines have started to make creative use of their assets to maximize their cargo revenues, which are suffering less than passenger revenues. In Brazil, Azul, the third-largest airline of the country, has had a jumpstart by owning a handful of Quick Change ATR 72-600s, that can be converted into a full-cargo configuration in a matter of hours.
It looks like, now, that the airline will push further into this cargo strategy. This week, an Embraer 195 was spotted in Belo Horizonte/Pampulha Airport, where Azul operates a maintenance base, in the full colors of Azul Cargo Express, the airline’s freight unit. The picture circled informally within social media, and its authenticity was confirmed by several aviation news outlets in Brazil.
This is the first cargo-only Embraer E-Jet in the world, as there are no programs of full-cargo conversion of the series, nor is the aircraft sold by the factory in a full-cargo configuration. As reported by Contato Radar, the aircraft conversion will not be complete without the installation of a cargo door, meaning the Embraer will only be able to carry small parcels of cargo. This will, additionally, favor the swap back to a passenger configuration if needed.
The aircraft selected to take on the conversion, as per the same source, was PR-AYO, an Embraer 195 that has operated for Azul since December 2010 and previously sported a fully pink livery, promoting the awareness of breast cancer. According to Airfleets, Yankee Oscar was supposed to be transferred to Romania’s Carpatair, being stored by Azul at the start of the year, before the coronavirus crisis hit Europe and South America.
Before COVID-19, Azul Cargo Express was already an important part of Azul’s growth plans, with the company adding its first two full-cargo aircraft to its fleet. PR-AJY and PR-AJZ, a pair of 737-400Fs, both joined the company in 2018. They both served key cargo markets of Azul’s network, as well as sporadically operating freight charters.
After the severe drop in demand caused by the coronavirus, Azul started using part of its passenger fleet to serve the demand, with some of its A330-200 and A330-900neo fleet dedicated for cargo operations between China and Brazil. The airline even started using two A320neos to transport small parcels, with boxes accommodated on the seats in the passenger cabin.
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