Some time ago I heard someone telling about travelling in cargo planes. Apparently some of those planes have a limited amount of extra seats and companies would sell them for an extra profit.

Does anyone have any information about this? Is that still possible?

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    And the pilots stand in the cockpit with oxygen masks? Mar 7, 2013 at 22:08
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    Of course they have pressurized cabins! They may be small, but they're definitely there. Some routes require two cockpit crews (due to their duration) and the secondary crew needs to sit somewhere too. There may just be a few additional seats but usually there is some space for additional "passengers". Mar 8, 2013 at 10:38
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    In a coffin. ;-)
    – feklee
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:42
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    KLM actualy offers quite some seats on some of their cargo planes, but you hardly notice that you are on a cargo plane seatguru.com/airlines/KLM/KLM_Boeing_747-400_combi.php
    – user141
    Jul 9, 2013 at 6:21
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    @AnkurBanerjee Do any common cargo planes (i.e. not specialized heavy lift or military planes) have unpressurized cargo holds? It seems like this would cause problems with many types of cargo (i.e. I've seen potato chip bags burst even at normal airliner pressures, so surely lots of cargo would have problems with no pressurization)
    – Johnny
    Jul 10, 2015 at 20:04

8 Answers 8


The short answer is: depends.

There are multiple discussions on Airliners regarding the subject. One from 2004 and another from 2011.

General consensus is that it is not possible with few exceptions:

  1. Accompanying live cargo
  2. Being an employee of the company flying the cargo
  3. In the remote areas like Alaska it may be possible to be flying a half and half plane. Half cargo - Half passenger.
  4. You are an airline crew member or a courier in that case you can request a Jumpseat Service from cargo airlines like Atlas (maybe someone can enlighten me what Groom means here)

Save those you are likely to be denied access to the plane

  • Indeed, airline employees can profit from these seats. Friends of mine have done this in the past for private travel. However, it's a Joker seat. If the airline needs the seat(s), the private travelers have to cede. Mar 7, 2013 at 22:11
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    5. Being best buddies with an employee
    – Jonas
    Mar 8, 2013 at 13:35
  • @Jonas I take it you have availed yourself of this. :)
    – Karlson
    Mar 8, 2013 at 14:09
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    @Karlson A groom is a caretaker for an animal being shipped. It's usually associated with horses, but any important/pricy/rare animal being shipped is very likely to have a groom go with it. (i.e. when pandas are shipped to various countries, there are always one or more grooms accompanying them.)
    – CGCampbell
    Dec 1, 2014 at 14:55
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    About 3, planes which transport both cargo and passengers do not only exist in remote areas. For instance, KLM offers it, see comment travel.stackexchange.com/questions/14297/…
    – a3nm
    Jun 14, 2017 at 15:52

Most freighter aircraft (excluding smaller aircraft) do have a small number of passenger seats, normally intended for use by staff such as deadheading/additional pilots, other company staff, etc.

Whilst it's possible that freight airlines somewhere in the world do accept paying passengers, in general it's not possible unless you work for the operator of the plane. Some cargo companies allow select staff to fly on their flights for any purpose, whilst others only allow those travelling for business purposes.

There's a number of reasons that it's not allowed, but in it's simplest form it's due to the licence class of the aircraft itself, which will not have been certified to carry paying passengers. In most cases this will be form of the airlines "Air operator's certificate" (AOC) not allowing for passenger traffic, either at all, or on specific types of aircraft such as freighters.

Carrying passengers would also require the flight to have flight attendants in order to meet requirements for safety, and for an aircraft that might have as few as 4 passenger seats that's simply not financially viable!

Even when only carrying their own staff things can still go wrong, such as in the case of Fedex flight 705.


Alaska Airlines operates a number of 737-400 "combi" aircraft, which have a cargo area behind the cockpit, and 72 passenger seats in the back. The airline posts a schedule of which flights will be operated by these planes; they are ticketed just like every other Alaska Airlines flight. Mostly they are flights within Alaska but a few go to Seattle.

These flights also show up on Kayak as "Boeing 737-400 Mixed Configuration".


If you're a member of the US military or an immediate relative you can fly Space Available (Space - A). This can get you on military cargo aircraft (with cargo), some of which are military versions of civilian aircraft.



I worked for Fedex until 2002, and up until September 11, employees could travel on the jumpseats of company planes. This was only available to employees, and not to friends or family, so when I was single, I traveled quite a bit, even getting to Japan and Hong Kong for free. Seats were available first come, first served, and at any time you could be bumped off if the company needed to use the seat to move a flight crew or other employee who needed to go where the aircraft was going. I recall that they suspended this after September 11, and do not know whether or not they have re-instituted it or not since then. The key was that they were not flying passengers, but allowing employees who had taken a training class on how to operate the emergency equipment on board the aircraft.

  • I just found this article from 2005. Looks like only employees traveling on company business can now use the jump-seat privileges. redorbit.com/news/technology/257616/…
    – David
    Mar 27, 2014 at 15:33
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    Just remember what happened to Tom Hanks when he was doing this. May 7, 2016 at 16:53

Short answer: no.

I have no special knowledge of the subject, so i propose a google potpourri.
"All I know is that I know nothing, except Google" - Socrates

It was the 2012 april's fool for STA travel.

Apparently it was possible for Fedex employees at some point.
Fly on cargo plane
Passengers on cargo flights still possible ?

(If you are a pet, it's possible too as there is pet cargo.)

Maybe in case of special merchandise professionals have to stay near (but it's not a travel).
(3 zoo keepers flew on a cargo because they brought two pandas)

By boat it's feasible, where can I get information on freighter travel?.


On special occasions you can not only travel in the normal passenger seats but also inside the cargo hold. For example in the COVID-19 epidemic Americans went home in a Kalitta B747 freighter like this

Kalitta B747 evacuation

Kalitta B747 evacuation

Kalitta B747 evacuation

Kalitta B747 evacuation

Kalitta B747 evacuation

Click the link on each image for the source

  • I would argue that a plane with several hundred seats installed is no longer a cargo aircraft...
    – Doc
    Feb 21, 2020 at 0:20
  • @Doc, I'd say it's still a cargo aircraft if the model number begins with "C".
    – Mark
    Oct 27, 2021 at 2:42

Technically, passenger aircraft are also cargo carrying aircraft, so the answer is yes, however aircraft specifically licensed or designed without passenger seating would only permit flight crews, essential staff that accompany live freight, or in the case of military with armaments. The liability for passengers and security arrangements would make general passenger transport using freighters a high risk, especially in the current situation of heightened terrorist awareness. An open approach would be counter to these measures.

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