American Airlines is flying cargo-only flights using widebodies to 15 destinations across the globe starting this week. In total, the Dallas-based carrier will operate 140 weekly cargo-only flights, almost double what it was flying a week ago, to cities in Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Caribbean.
New cargo-only flights
Last week, American Airlines was flying 80 cargo-only flights per week. This week, it is up to 140 as customers need to move precious cargo around. Now, the carrier has to fly critical goods like record-breaking shipments of seeds, fresh produce, temperature-controlled drug trials for COVID-19, and vital protective equipment heading to medical professionals.
President of Cargo and Vice President of International Operations at American, Rick Elieson, said the following:
“Why we fly hasn’t changed, but out of necessity how we care for people on life’s journey has had to change. Cargo-only fights have allowed us to transport medical equipment, communications and technology tools, pharmaceuticals and food supplies. Air cargo is uniquely positioned to connect the world at a time when barriers and distance threaten to separate us. I’m immensely proud of our teams and business partners who have come together to make these flights possible.”
Here are the cargo-only flights American is flying to Asia-Pacific:
- DFW-HKG, Boeing 777-300ER, daily
- DFW-ICN-PEK-DFW, Boeing 787-9, 3x weekly
- DFW-NRT, Boeing 787-8, 3x weekly
- LAX-HKG, 777-300ER, Daily
- LAX-ICN-PVG-LAX, 787-9, twice-daily
- LAX-SYD, 777-300ER, 1x weekly
To Europe, AA is flying the following flights:
- DFW-AMS, 777-300ER, 2x weekly
- DFW-DUB, 777-300ER, 1x weekly
- DFW-FRA, 777-300ER, 2x weekly
- DFW-MAD, 787-8, daily
- DFW-LHR, 787-8, daily
- JFK-LHR, Boeing 777-200ER, 2x weekly
- MIA-LHR, 777-300ER, daily
- ORD-CDG, 787-8, 1x weekly
- ORD-LHR, 787-8, 2x weekly
- PHL-FCO, 787-8, 1x weekly
- PHL-ZRH, 787-8, 1x weekly
And, to the Caribbean, American is flying a Boeing 787-8 from PHL to SJU two times per week. These new flights are on top of the existing 58 weekly cargo-only flights around the world.
Putting these cargo-only flights in place requires a lot of work. American had to secure necessary government approvals for flight operations to those countries, determine aircraft availability and economic feasibility, while also ensuring crew availability.
To further support its operations, American is also leveraging a host of different connections beyond final destinations. This includes flights and, where a plane is not available, even a freight network to move cargo where it needs to go.
While some airlines are carrying cargo both in the cabin and in the hold of the aircraft, American is currently planning on flying cargo only in the hold. In the cabin, additional crewmembers are needed in case of fire or other emergencies. Plus, taking cargo out of the passenger cabin is no easy feat since it has to be loaded through the cabin doors. Meaning the plane has to spend more time on the ground.
AA’s cargo history
Cargo has always had a significant role in air transportation. Flying is one of the fastest and most efficient ways to get freight from point A to point B. Back on October 15, 1944, American flew its first cargo flight with a Douglas DC-3. Onboard the flight from Burbank, California, to New York-LaGuardia, was 6,000 pounds of fresh spinach, flowers, airplane parts, and apparel.
Then, thirty years later, in 1974, American acquired six Boeing 747 freighters that could haul up to 176,000 pounds of cargo. These jets flew for ten years before AA changed plans. The DC-10 and 767 could haul freight containers on passenger jets, so American started to move away from freight planes. The 747s were sold– although one found a new life at NASA where it would transport the space shuttle on its back.
Throughout the years, however, American has flown plenty of interesting cargo. This includes things like horses, helicopters, orangutans, and cars such as a Rolls Royce and a DeLorean.
One of the more interesting shipments, however, was a trolley car and made for a fun sight.
Today, however, American Airlines flies two billion pounds of cargo per year in the aircraft hold.
Cargo flights are quickly becoming some of the best sources of revenue for airlines. Drawing on a long history of flying cargo, American is expanding its effort to be as robust as its scheduled international route network. With 140 flights per week, American will be transporting a significant amount of cargo. And, if demand remains, expect additional cargo flights or the carrier will start carrying cargo in the cabin.
Do you rely on air freight for vital goods? What do you make of American’s expanded cargo-only flights? Let us know in the comments!