(CNN) — The global pandemic has created a new aviation trend known as “preighter” flights, in which airlines retrofit their passenger cabins to hold packages instead of passengers, to increase their overall cargo capacity.

With the holiday season approaching, Alaska Air Cargo has joined the fray, introducing an Alaska Airlines 737-900 passenger aircraft with seats that now serve as stowage containers. Alaska’s retrofitted plane’s cargo flights first took off in late November.

Alaska Air Cargo enlisted HAECO Cabin Solutions, a division of HAECO, a global enterprise that provides aircraft engineering and maintenance services, to retrofit a single Alaska airlines passenger aircraft for cargo-only flights. HAECO Cabin Solutions designs have also been utilized by Cathay Pacific.

Alaska Air Cargo's Load Agents insure packages are stowed safely in the passenger cabin of their retrofitted 737-900.

Alaska Air Cargo’s Load Agents insure packages are stowed safely in the passenger cabin of their retrofitted 737-900.

Courtesy Alaska Air Cargo

According to a press release, “Our teams have been working since spring to identify the safest and most effective processes to increase our cargo capacity,” said Torque Zubeck, managing director of Alaska Air Cargo. “HAECO’s design will allow us to maximize the available space, increase our cargo capacity and protect the supply chain by connecting critical cargo to the communities we serve during this public health crisis.”

Each reconfigured 737-900 flight can carry up to 30,000 pounds, including storage in the aircraft’s belly, filling “the main cabin passenger seats with an additional 13,500 pounds of cargo on top of what a passenger-only cargo flight can carry.”

The crew for these flights includes two pilots and two Cargo Load Agents who, as stated in the press release, “provide oversight of loading, ensure proper tagging, cargo integrity, provide fire suppression if required, and make sure cargo is safe and secure within the in-seat package stowage system.”


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