Combi aircraft

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First Air 737-400 combi aircraft in Montreal, March 2016. Note the absence of passenger windows ahead of the wing in the forward cargo compartment section of the aircraft.

Combi aircraft in commercial aviation are aircraft that can be used to carry either passengers, as an airliner, or cargo as a freighter, and may have a partition in the aircraft cabin to allow both uses at the same time in a mixed passenger/freight combination.

Combi aircraft typically feature an oversized cargo door, as well as tracks on the cabin floor to allow the seats to be added or removed quickly.

Typically, configured for both passenger and cargo duty, the passenger compartment is pressurized to a higher pressure, to prevent fumes from cargo entering the passenger area.[citation needed]


Northwest Airlines[edit]

One U.S. air carrier that flew propeller-driven combi aircraft was Northwest Airlines.

In 1963, Northwest was operating a domestic and International routing with a Douglas DC-7C four engine propeller aircraft between New York Idlewild Airport (which would subsequently be renamed JFK Airport) and Tokyo that was configured to transport a mixed passenger/cargo load.

The round trip routing for this flight which was operated once a week was New York-Chicago-Seattle-Anchorage-Tokyo.

The DC-7C was configured with all economy seating in the passenger cabin.[1]

By 1966, Northwest was operating jet combi service with Boeing 707-320C aircraft between the U.S. and Asia.[2]

Braniff International[edit]

Another U.S. airline that operated combi aircraft was Braniff International.

In 1968, Braniff was flying Boeing 727-100QC ("Quick Change") jetliners in a configuration that facilitated the transportation of palletized freight containers as well as 51 passengers in an all economy class cabin in scheduled airline operations.[3]

According to a Braniff system timetable dated July 1, 1968, the airline was operating weekday "red eye flights" with round trip services at night with its B727 combi aircraft on the following routings: New York (JFK) - Washington, D.C. (IAD) - Nashville (BNA) - Memphis (MEM) - Dallas Love Field (DAL); Seattle (SEA) - Portland (PDX) - Dallas Love Field (DAL); and Denver (DEN) - Dallas Love Field (DAL).

The freight pallets were loaded in the front section of the aircraft by forklift via a large cargo door located on the side of the fuselage aft of the flight deck while passengers boarded and deplaned via the integral air stairs located at the rear underneath the trijet's engines.

These aircraft could also be quickly changed to fly either all cargo or all passenger operations and Braniff flew the B727QC in both configurations besides operating in a mixed passenger/freight combi mode.

Continental Micronesia[edit]

An additional U.S. operator of the Boeing 727-100 Combi was Continental Micronesia (known as "Air Mike") which in 1983 was operating mixed passenger/freight flights with the aircraft between Honolulu and Guam on its "Island Hopper" service.[4]

One such 727 combi service operated by Continental Micronesia was flight 562 which departed Guam every Tuesday at 3:30pm and then arrived in Honolulu at 7:41am the next morning with en route stops being made at such Pacific island destinations as Truk, Pohnpei (formerly Ponape), Kwajalein, Majuro and Johnston Island.

Royal Brunei Airlines[edit]

An Asian operator of combi aircraft was Royal Brunei Airlines flying Boeing 737-200QC aircraft.

In 1983, Royal Brunei was operating nonstop combi service with the 737 between its home base of Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei and Bangkok, Hong Kong and Singapore.[5]


A long time user of combi aircraft is KLM which is also known as KLM Royal Dutch airlines.

According to the May 15, 1971 KLM system timetable, the airline was operating Douglas DC-8 combi jetliners in mixed passenger/freight services between its hub located at the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) and the following destinations: Amman, Anchorage, Bangkok, Brazzaville, Chicago O'Hare Airport, Houston Intercontinental Airport, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, Mexico City, Montreal, New York City JFK Airport, Singapore, Teheran, Tokyo, Tripoli and Zurich.[6] KLM's DC-8 combi aircraft featured all coach service with no first class cabin.

The airline currently operates Boeing 747-400 combi aircraft.[7]

Air France and Lufthansa[edit]

Other European airlines operating combi aircraft in the past included Air France and Lufthansa which both operated Boeing 747 combis.

According to the Official Airline Guide (OAG), during the early 1980s Air France was flying 747 combi service between France and destinations in Africa, Asia, Canada, Mexico, the Mideast, South America and the U.S. including Anchorage, Chicago O'Hare Airport, Houston Intercontinental Airport and Los Angeles while Lufthansa was operating 747 combis between Germany and destinations in Africa, Asia, Australia, the Mideast, South America and the U.S. including Anchorage, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York JFK Airport, Philadelphia and San Francisco.[8]

In both cases, Anchorage was used as a technical stop by the Air France and Lufthansa combi services on the polar route between Europe and Japan.

Other combi aircraft operators[edit]

A number of other airlines also flew Boeing 747 combis during the early 1980s including Air Canada, Alitalia, Avianca, China Airlines, El Al, Qantas, Sabena, South African Airways, Swissair, UTA and Varig.[9] In addition, Sabena was operating McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 combis at this time as well.[10] There was also a combi version of the successor to the DC-10 being the McDonnell Douglas MD-11C which was operated by Alitalia. During the early 1990s, Garuda Indonesia Airlines was operating Boeing 747 combis between Jakarta and Los Angeles via Honolulu.[11]

Air Marshall Islands was a somewhat exotic combi aircraft operator flying a Douglas DC-8-62CF jetliner in mixed passenger/freight operations. According to the Official Airline Guide (OAG), Air Marshall Islands was operating a DC-8 combi on scheduled services linking Honolulu with the Pacific islands of Kwajalein and Majuro during the early 1990s.[12] Air Marshall Islands is still currently in existence flying regional turboprops but no longer operates combi jet aircraft.

There were several other combi aircraft operators as well in Alaska in the past including MarkAir with Boeing 737-200s, Reeve Aleutian Airways with Boeing 727-100 jets and Lockheed L-188 Electra turboprops, Western Airlines with Lockheed L-188 Electras and Wien Air Alaska with Boeing 737-200s and Fairchild F-27B turboprops. Wien was the launch customer for the combi version of the B737-200.

A number of airlines in Canada also flew combi aircraft besides Air Canada and its Boeing 747 combi service including First Air with Boeing 727-100 and 727-200 jetliners in addition to Hawker Siddeley HS 748 turboprops. First Air continues to operate combi aircraft at the present time including Boeing 737-200 and 737-400 jetliners as well as the ATR-42 turboprop.[13] Two other current combi operators in Canada are Air North operating the Boeing 737-200 jet and Hawker Siddeley HS 748 turboprop, and Canadian North flying Boeing 737-200 jets and de Havilland Canada DHC-8-100 Dash 8 turboprop aircraft. Other combi operators in Canada in the past included CP Air and Pacific Western with both airlines flying Boeing 727-100 and Boeing 737-200 combi aircraft.

In 2008 Aviation Traders designed a Boeing 757-200 combi aircraft leased from Astraeus Airlines for the heavy metal band Iron Maiden.[14] The front of the aircraft was configured for passengers, with the rear holding six tonnes of cargo consisting of Iron Maiden's equipment for their tour. The band supported their most recent tour with a Boeing 747-400 leased from Air Atlanta Icelandic.


Nowadays[when?], many airlines have converted their combis into full passenger service or full freighter service for the potential of more profitable operations.[citation needed]

Current combi aircraft operators: Alaska Airlines[edit]

Only a few major airlines such as KLM still operate wide body combi configured jetliners, primarily being Boeing 747-400 aircraft, although Alaska Airlines currently operates converted narrow body Boeing 737-400 combis that were previously flown in full passenger configuration.[15] According to the Alaska Airlines website, the airline is operating five Boeing 737-400 combi aircraft at the present time with each jetliner configured with 72 passenger seats in the coach compartment.

These 737-400 aircraft replaced Boeing 737-200 combis that were formerly operated by Alaska Airlines, which is the only major U.S. air carrier currently flying scheduled combi operations domestically with service between Seattle and Alaska and also between Anchorage, Fairbanks and remote destinations in Alaska.[16]

Alaska Airlines previously operated Boeing 727-100C aircraft which were also capable of combi operations.[17]

Notable combi passenger aircraft[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^; Northwest Airlines March 1, 1963 system timetable, pages 8 & 14
  2. ^, March 1, 1966 Northwest Airlines system timetable
  3. ^, Braniff International July 1, 1968 system timetable, page 30
  4. ^, July 1, 1983 Worldwide Edition, Official Airline Guide (OAG), Guam & Honolulu flight schedules for Continental Micronesia
  5. ^, July 1, 1983 Worldwide Edition, Official Airline Guide (OAG), Bandar Seri Begawan flight schedules
  6. ^, May 15, 1971 KLM system timetable, Freight Services
  7. ^,com/cargo/portalb2b/fleet
  8. ^, July 1, 1983 Official Airline Guide (OAG) Worldwide Edition, Frankfurt & Paris flight schedules
  9. ^, July 1, 1983 Official Airline Guide (OAG) Worldwide Edition
  10. ^, July 1, 1983 Official Airline Guide (OAG) Worldwide Edition
  11. ^ Oct. 1, 1993 OAG Desktop Flight Guide, Worldwide Edition
  12. ^ Official Airline Guide, October 1993 edition, flight schedules for Kwajalein (KWA) and Majuro (MAJ)
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ https;//
  16. ^, Flight Information, Downloadable Timetables
  17. ^, photos of Alaska Airlines Boeing 727-100C aircraft