X-Lite Freighter featuring Cabin-Cargo-Trolleys
umlaut develops a cabin-cargo-trolley that can be loaded offsite the aircraft, boarded through the passenger door, and transfer its loads to the seat tracks.
The years between 2015 and 2019 have been the most successful years for airlines. Airbus estimates airlines operating profit during that time at $269.3 billion, almost as much as in the 44 years before. A development that benefited from a timeframe free of exogenous shocks, leading to a growth in the number of passengers and evolving business models as well as emerging markets. In March 2020 this timeframe was interrupted as the WHO declared a novel coronavirus a global pandemic. As of October 2020 it has become clear, that the impact of the COVID-19-crisis is exceeding any previous event. According to ICAO, the operating loss of air carriers is currently estimated at more than $240 billion for 2020.
While travel restriction and passenger confidence are still significantly impacting the demand for passenger flights, many air carriers have shifted their focus to cargo operations. In contrary to passenger demand, air cargo is experiencing a V-shaped recovery. With demand rising and no indication of passenger belly capacity returning, carries are utilizing otherwise grounded passenger aircraft as belly-only flights or so-called to serve the market.
Flexible, fast and reversible: X-Lite Freighter
At umlaut we have developed a new solution that advances the concept of the "Preighter" by addressing its limitation. Our X-Lite Freighter offers a reversible configuration for passenger aircraft that allow air carriers to utilize passenger aircraft for cargo operation efficiently.
It is based on so-called Cabin Cargo Trolleys, that can be loaded offsite the aircraft, boarded through the passenger door and locked into the existing seat tracks via aircraft specific Locking Pads. Our two-component system enables a cross-aircraft utilization for maximal flexibility regardless of fleet size and composition. The X-Lite Freighter complements the current freighter portfolio as cost- and time-efficient alternative that scales with its growing network and provides additional cargo capacity overnight.
‘This solution overcomes the limitations of the current cabin-cargo solutions available in the market, and enables efficient cargo handling and fast turnarounds’, Dr. Jürgen Wittmann, Director at umlaut says. ‘Thus, we can offer a sustainable end-to-end solution that helps operators to increase the profitability of their aircraft through a flexible, fast, and reversible cabin reconfiguration that enables additional freight capacities - ideal to fulfil current and future demands’, he adds.
umlaut's modular cabin-cargo-solution with light-weight aluminium and a cabin adapted outer moldline. With its standard x-lock units the trolley fits perfectly to the seat track.
In times of crisis and beyond
With our solution, we are introducing the opportunity to flexible allocate cabin capacity to either passenger or cargo. The X-Lite mixed configurations provide additional means to fleet and route planning, considering seasonal fluctuation or route-specific load factor optimization.
However, the solution does not only provide added value in times of crisis: ‘We see our X-Lite Freighter not only as a temporary solution to bridge the situation but as an opportunity to have a lasting impact on the industry’, Dr. Jürgen Wittmann says.
Based on our modular design, we are able to extend the current air cargo logistics chain and provide the opportunity for intermodal end-2-end logistics, making it a perfect solution to address the current needs e.g. of the growing e-commerce market.
Business potential and transport capabilities - even beyond COVID-19:
- Reversible and fast adaptation of passenger cabins for cabin-cargo demands by simply removing seats and storing them safely.
- Additional flexibility to operators through a reconfiguration of aircraft cabins to optimize aircraft utilization - even with mixed configuration.
- Short lead time for reconfiguration overnight at any airport.
- Sustainable implementation beyond current air cargo logistics possible.