TAP Air Portugal has operated the first ever cargo-only Airbus A330neo flight after one of its aircraft departed for China as part of the carrier's 'humanitarian mission'.

The aircraft, which on 22 May, 2020 departed Lisbon for Xiamen, has had all its seats removed to make room for more cargo. While this may come as a surprise to many, the conversion of an aircraft temporarily to cargo is not uncommon during these unprecedented times.

Indeed, the Airbus A330neo is one of TAP Air Portugal's newest aircraft. While it may seem bizarre that the airline removed the seats on board one of its newer planes, it is only temporary. The removal of seats mean airlines can transport more light cargo such as medical supplies and other small packages.

The aircraft that operated the flight to China was CS-TUQ, an Airbus A330-900neo delivered to TAP Air Portugal on 14 February, 2020 making it less than a year old. Powered by two Rolls Royce Trent 7000 engines, the aircraft would normally feature 298 seats comprising 34 flat-bed Business Class seats, 96 Economy Xtra seats and 168 Economy seats. The A330neo flew from Lisbon to Xiamen on 22 May, 2020, before returning from Xiamen to Porto earlier today.

The flight from Lisbon to Xiamen departed at midday and landed in China 13 hours later. On its return journey, the aircraft left at 3:35am and arrived in Lisbon at 10:24am local time.

TAP Air Portugal was the launch customer for the Airbus A330neo. The aircraft is significantly more efficient and environmentally friendly offering airlines a 15% reduction in fuel consumption as well as less noise pollution. TAP's A330neo also features the all-new 'Airspace' cabin which, the airline says, offers 'passengers high-comfort flights with less noise'.