How to make the difference between a commercial flight and a cargo flight?

Hello! Lately, I find it hard to make the difference between a commercial flight, and a cargo one, as all of us may know that airlines started using passenger aircrafts as cargo ones, in support of the coronavirus pandemic, so is certainly hard to know which flight is cargo, and which not.
So, how can I make the difference between a commercial and a cargo flight? Personally, I tried ‘booking’ certain flights to look if they are bookable or not, but I know that this may be wrong because not every non-bookable flight means that is cargo.
Thank you!

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I don’t really understand the “booking” part of your question but what I do know is that you’re absolutely correct, passenger aircraft are still being used for Cargo ops as well. I guess a good way to have a difference will be to fly with Cargo only, and maybe very few amounts of passengers on passenger flights but being conscious that its still a passenger aircraft, for example the 77W.

Hope that helps!


Often flight numbers on FR24 give it away. If a B77W by Emirates operates under a flight number of 8000+ its a strong indicator in these times that it is flying as a preighter at the moment


In many cases, trying to determine whether or not one is passenger or one is cargo is really a guessing game. On one hand, I’ve seen airlines like British Airways terminate their passenger services to Kuala Lumpur for example, although in doing so, they have started cargo services which flies the same route, albeit on a different number. However, in recent days, as operations has scaled back from three daily flights to just one, British Airways has reverted to using their passenger flight number whilst operating cargo only.

In all, it’s really a guessing game from airline to airline, although a generally good indicator is to look for the flight numbers themselves. I’ve seen plenty of airlines use “unusual” flight numbers, where they are running four digit numbers on long haul flights for example. There really just isn’t a right answer, as operations from one airline to another changes drastically, but hopefully the metric of looking at the variability of the departure time, the frequencies of these flights and as mentioned, the flight number, could give you an idea as to what these flight are for.

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An Example of this is an Emirates 77W flying from Copenhagen to Chicago, clearly cargo. However some are harder to spot, but on FR24, if it departed from the cargo facility of an airport, it was most likely cargo.

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