The Russian authorities have issued special permits to seven domestic airlines to transport cargo in the passenger cabin when no passengers are on board, the state aviation agency Rosaviatsiya said last week, according to Reuters.
The move comes as the coronavirus outbreak has halted the majority of flights and the situation threatens to completely destroy Russia’s aviation sector.
International passenger flights, with the exception of those bringing Russian home from abroad, have all been suspended, leaving airlines looking for alternative ways to make money.
Domestic flights within Russia have continued to operate, but demand for them has also sharply fallen.
State carrier Aeroflot and its unit, Rossiya Airlines, have been included on the list, along with Ural Airlines, Nordwind Airlines, Azur Air, Ikar, and Royal Flight. The list could be added to, Rosaviatsiya said.
Earlier this month, President Vladimir Putin pledged more than 23 billion rubles ($309 million) in support to airlines, with Russia’s citizens told to stay at home since the beginning of April in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Russia’s second-biggest carrier S7 Airlines has also joined in the mission of transporting medical cargo shipments from China to Russia and beyond, as well as domestically. The airline made its first flight from Beijing to Novosibirsk on April 18 using cabins and the belly hold baggage compartments of its narrow-body passenger airliners. Another flight is scheduled from Shanghai to Moscow this week. The airline is using the sales capabilities of its sister company S7 Cargo, which also part of S7 Group. More flights are in the works.