© Richair |

Please : a request for a reconsideration of KLM and Air France decision and announcement of grounding KLM 747-400 Combi aircraft

Montreal, March 20,2020

An open letter to Ben Smith, Chairman Air France KLM Group and Peter Elbers President KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.


You don’t know me, but I had the honour to work for KLM Cargo for over 32 years culminating with global responsibility for cargo sales and marketing based in Schiphol. Prior to that I was VP cargo and area manager Canada and then Middle East, Asia and Australia.

During my 32 years of service I saw how the B747-400 Combi saved KLM financially on numerous occasions as a true cargo aircraft was needed during the gulf war crisis, SARS etc., and it allowed us to continue operations with at least a break-even result.

Now more than ever these aircraft are needed to support humanitarian requirements for goods and services, keeping supply chains open so that production of these critical health-related supplies flow, and to enable people to retain their jobs in all the continents you serve. It is not an obligation, but it is certainly what morally you should be thinking of  doing. The world will thank you in the end for this initiative, and I know the logistics community will back you.

Airlines are flying passenger  B787/B777 as freighters through belly hold capacity to help, and I am sure you are looking at that as well. But much of the medical relief goods that people want to ship is volumetric and some of it will be main deck. The best case for a pax 787/777 as a freight-only option is approx. 120 cubic meters.

However the 747-400M (Combi) operated just for freight has seven main deck Q7 possible at 18 cubic meters each, plus a possible 9 lower deck pallets at a minimum 10 cubic meters each, plus bag containers and bulk, easily 230 to 240 cubic meters and this is a mini freighter even with all pax related EIC in place. We regularly achieved over 45 metric tons on the 14-pallet version, flying it for now and the foreseeable future as pure all-cargo alternative, more tonnage will be possible.

Please do the right thing, global shippers, forwarders, health authorities will pay what is needed to ensure you do not lose money if that is an issue, And I am sure the Netherlands Logistics community with its vital role in global trade will be very supportive as well.

We are counting on you,


Stan Wraight



Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.
  • massimo roccasecca

    March 21, 2020 at 3:33 pm

    Not only i agree on the extremely accurate picture Stan Wraight has described, therefore personally convinced the decision in KLM was taken by people who has no knowledge of cargo dynamics whatsoever, but i would like to forward the following question:
    Covid 19 is heavily impacting the passenger traffic. And it might be become even heavier. Perhaps forcing airlines to reduce capacity in a drastic manner. Where is the sense in grounding the only real cargo aircraft when, due to this pandemic emergency, it will be needed the most?

  • Derek Hendricks

    March 21, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    To : Loadstar
    I am in strong agreement with Mr. Wraight . I believe that the B-747M aircraft represent both a unique capability , and opportunity , for airlines possessing them . Consider that the current slowdown in air-travel may be long-term , or even permanent . Cargo-transport will likely not be so affected , as the recent outbreaks all have required person-to-person contact . In addition to all extant jumbo-combis , I believe that the currently flying , dedicated passenger jumbo/super-jumbo jets should be converted to split-level combis , not for heavy-freight , but for luggage and possibly light-freight . Such planes would have passengers only on their top-deck , heavy-freight only in the cargo-holds , some pax main-deck forward, and luggage/possible low-density air-freight on main-deck rearward . This also gives the option of carrying the luggage from other aircraft , thus enabling them to carry a full belly-load of well-paying air-freight . This alternative layout would enable airlines to fly their largest planes consistently payload-full . They could also fly them to many point-to-point destinations , as their pax-loads would be modest .
    *As has always been the case in the transport industry , “Size equals efficiency” .