Cargo instead of passengers: Airbus A380 flies urgently needed medical supplies for Corona test kits from Shanghai to Hamburg


An unusual "Röhlig Charter" has landed at Hamburg Airport. Onboard are urgent supplies for the production of Covid-19 rapid tests in Germany. What is special about this charter is the aircraft: it is not a usual cargo freighter, but the popular passenger aircraft Airbus A380, which has been converted into the world's largest relief freighter.

Lack of cargo capacity for relief goods


Many goods are transported in the hold of passenger aircraft. As this option is largely unavailable due to the Corona pandemic and the resulting restricted air traffic, cargo space is severely limited. In order to enable the transport of important goods for the production of a SARS-CoV-2 antigen rapid test in these times, our Röhlig teams in China and Germany have organised a charter service for a customer. The converted Airbus A380 offers more than 300 cubic metres of space so that more than 2,500 boxes of relief supplies could be flown to Germany. 

"By using the A380, we can offer our customer a reliable and plannable delivery of high freight volumes at attractive conditions in times of volatile rates and scarce freight capacities."

Jens Haas, National Air Freight Manager, Röhlig Germany

An air charter with a difference


Due to a local Covid 19 outbreak at Shanghai airport in late November 2020, many flights at one of the busiest airports in the world had to be cancelled and processes interrupted. As a result, the medical material, which is normally flown to Germany by air freight at regular intervals, piled up at the Röhlig warehouse in Shanghai.

After work could be resumed at the airport, 80 tonnes of material had to be transported as quickly as possible. Therefore, the Röhlig team chartered the converted Airbus A380, which transported the freight in two consecutive flights to Hamburg Airport. From there, the freight is transferred directly to the customer by truck.


The Röhlig-team welcomes the Airbus A380 in Hamburg.

The history of the Airbus A380


The wide-body aircraft of the European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is considered the largest series-produced commercial aircraft in the history of air freight. In April 2005, the long-haul aircraft, which can carry up to 853 passengers, took off on its maiden flight. The spacious giant aircraft is popular with many passengers because it is quiet in the air. However, many airlines are shutting down their A380s this year. According to Airbus, the jet is too big and therefore difficult to fill, too heavy and not profitable. Production of the A380 will end in 2021.

But in times of the pandemic, the A380 offers a lot: the economy class seats have been removed to create ample space for 1,500 boxes and cartons on the two passenger decks. The aircraft is therefore particularly well suited to transporting a large number of small items such as masks, parts of test kits and protective equipment. The converted A380 offers space for up to 345 cubic metres of cargo with a mass of up to 60 tonnes.

Röhlig: Your reliable partner for the transport of medical and health products


Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Röhlig has been supporting our customers with fast solutions for medical supplies: 

  • 35 million disposable masks
  • 135 million SARS-CoV2 antigen rapid test kits
  • 10 million FFP2 masks
  • 1 million microporous coveralls

Our Röhlig teams in Germany, China and the rest of the world will organise a charter flight for you.

"The coronavirus pandemic has presented us and our entire industry with enormous challenges. We accept these and always find the perfect solution for our customers, even in times of limited cargo space."

Andreas Polychronakos, Global Air Freight Director


Does your shipment need to reach its destination as quickly as possible?

Let's talk about individual solutions in the field of air charter.

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