South Korea’s Jin Air is the latest to deploy passenger planes on pure cargo operations as the coronavirus crisis wipes out business and leisure travel worldwide.

The budget carrier says it will use its Boeing 777-200ER aircraft for cargo flights on the Incheon-Taipei route from 30 March to 13 April to transport items such as fabric, clothing and electrical parts.

Jin Air’s fleet of 18 aircraft includes four 777-200ERs, according to Cirium fleets data. It says it will use the lower deck as cargo space.

The cargo move comes on top of other measures introduced by the carrier to combat the coronavirus crisis, including its chief executive taking a 50% pay cut, plus early retirement and unpaid leave for staff.

The need for medical equipment and supplies worldwide is currently one of the factors driving demand for freight on board planes.

Prior to the crisis, a significant portion of global air freight is moved as belly cargo. With almost 40% of the global passenger jet fleet now in storage, according to the latest Cirium update, airlines are now looking at how to transport much-needed cargo.

Many carriers in the Americas, Europe and Asia are therefore using empty passenger planes to transport goods.

American Airlines has flown its first cargo-only flights since 1984, and Virgin Atlantic, its first ever.

Among those getting creative, Austrian Airlines posted a video on social media showing its crew loading boxes of medical supplies onto passenger seats covered with what appears to be plastic sheets.

Air New Zealand, which is flying only freight and some domestic routes at present, said today it was looking at extending cargo capacity by retrofitting a 777-200.

Airlines trade body IATA has called for governments to take urgent measures to ensure that vital freight routes remain open during the pandemic.