New data from Cargo Facts Consulting (CFC) shows that, in the third week of June, airlines operated 1,461 passenger-freighter flights and, of those, Qatar Airways operated 28 per cent, American Airlines 18 per cent, Air Canada 15 per cent and United 10 per cent.
Two-thirds of the flights were into the Americas, with European and Asian destinations accounting for just 34 flights each, according to CFC.
Despite the heavy usage by some carriers, others are scaling back the use of passenger aircraft, reports London's The Loadstar.
Austrian Airlines recently said it had ended its full-cargo operations and was restoring the seats in its two 777s to carry passengers from July. Sister airline Swiss, however, still operates some passenger-freighters, with 10 flights in the third week of June, according to CFC.
With the traditional slack season under way, perhaps unexpected this year, freighter operators in particular look to be drawing back from passenger-freighters - with the exception of Qatar - while for others, their hands could be forced.
Exemptions to allow passenger aircraft to carry cargo in the cabin were made by both the F and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) when the pandemic struck. The F deadline on the exemption expires on July 10, but in March Airlines 4 America applied for a year's extension and despite the looming deadline, no extension has yet been announced.
In Europe, EASA, which was said to be reluctant to allow cargo in cabins for safety reasons, originally allowed the exemption until the end of this year.
EASA told The Loadstar it was 'currently analysing the needs and the safety case for an extension'. It said: 'We are working to determine whether such flexibility will indeed still be needed beyond the end of 2021 and whether this can be afforded from a safety perspective.'
Handlers at least won't be sorry to see passenger-freighters leave the market. Wilson Kwong, CEO of Hong Kong's Hactl, told The Loadstar they added to congestion at airports.
'The current passenger-freighter operations are very labour-intensive, requiring increased manpower. Loading times for these flights are greater, so we have to present cargo for loading five to six hours earlier than normal, which places considerable pressure on our operations and resources.'