For the first time ever, South African Airways has flown a passenger plane, an Airbus A340-600, to Frankfurt filled not with people but with critical and essential goods, such as perishable foods, and returned with personal protective equipment and testing kits for the Coronavirus.

south african airways travel cargo
Photo: Twitter.

“This was the first time in its history that SAA Cargo operated a passenger aircraft for a pure cargo uplift,” SAA said.

The charter flight by SAA Cargo, the airfreight division of SAA, returned to Johannesburg last night after flying to Frankfurt on 6 April. The outward journey included perishables such as fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, laboratory supplies as well as automotive and aircraft parts for repairs. The return flight from Europe carried testing kits for COVID-19, immunological pharmaceuticals, insulin, surgical personal protective equipment and processing equipment for food such as baby milk powder.

The next pure cargo flight is scheduled to depart from Johannesburg to Guangzhou (China) tomorrow, Friday. It will operate on the same aircraft type for collection and delivery of medical supplies, SAA said.

“SAA has demonstrated agility and we are working with our partners to provide them and our country with solutions that are relevant in these difficult times. The decision to deploy an A346, is based on both its capacity and range and so bolsters our freighter services during this time when there is high demand for cargo shipments,” said SAA Cargo’s acting General Manager, Justice Luthuli.

According to SAA, SAA Cargo has stepped up as a trade facilitator and a solution provider to sustain supply chains to and from various countries. The solution is provided on a charter basis at the request of our customers, who are producers and suppliers of essential cargo. All flights are operated under strict operating procedures and in full compliance to COVID-19 civil aviation and health regulatory measures by both our staff and our customers.

“As a national carrier, we are pleased that we can contribute in response to our country’s needs to bring in much needed medical supplies and other essential goods to assist in the fight against COVID-19. We extend our gratitude to all our employees for their commitment and service during this time,” Luthuli said.