Cargo Is Driving American’s International Route Resumptions

Slowly, but surely, airlines are starting to resume their international services. For American’s recent increase in summer flights, several long-haul international flights have resumed. However, in a conversation with Brian Znotins, American’s Vice President of Network and Schedule Planning, American’s long-haul resumptions are being driven by cargo.

American Airlines 777-200
American Airlines is resuming passenger services on long-haul international routes. Photo: Getty Images

Cargo is driving the return of scheduled international passenger services

As countries start to reopen borders, people are beginning to travel again. However, travel numbers remain at some of their lowest levels in recent history. Yet, some airlines are starting to relaunch international flights faster than travel demand is recovering. American Airlines is one of those airlines.

One of the driving factors of reinstating passenger flights is cargo. For the past few months, American has been flying many cargo-only flights to major destinations around the world, including Hong Kong, Seoul, and more.

American Airlines cargo-only flight from Dallas Fort-Worth
Cargo has kept some of AA’s planes flying during the crisis. Photo: Getty Images

Cargo helps pay the bills

With passenger revenue significantly down and millions of dollars in refunds issued, American has had to get creative and use passenger jets for long-haul cargo flights. The airline’s cargo team is continuously monitoring demand and flying where it needs to, in order to get crucial supplies around the world.

With government restrictions easing and American continuing to fly to select destinations, it made sense for the airline to open up flights for passengers to fly onboard. In many cases, according to Brian Znotins, American is able to earn some revenue and make those flights viable even if, from a passenger perspective, there are not enough people flying. While cargo may not pay the whole bill, it is enough to make those flights viable.

One example of this is American’s return to Paris. The AA team had done a cargo forecast for the flight and determined that the route would be viable to open up for passengers. While there are costs associated with flying passengers, such as providing meal services and operating with flight attendants, the cargo demand is more than enough to justify the flight.

In mid-May, American operated over 100 cargo-only flights each week. Photo: American Airlines

As American also retires older aircraft, like the 767, in favor of newer jets such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, this also helps reduce the airline’s fuel and maintenance bill, which adds additional viability for the resumed routes.

Could additional destinations be on the horizon?

Currently, American’s focus is on reinstating flights to bigger, more significant points around the world. That is why major business centers like London, Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Amsterdam (among others) are some of the first flights to come back.

In addition, London, Tokyo, and Hong Kong are major hubs for American’s partners. This allows for more connections and opportunities to fly cargo where it needs to go.

American Airlines 787
Newer aircraft, like the 787 Dreamliner, are more fuel-efficient and cheaper to fly. Photo: Getty Images

For now, domestic resumptions are coming much faster than international long-haul destinations. But as the situation continues to evolve and countries start to remove restrictions on international flights and foreign passengers, expect American to grow in lockstep.

Are there any international routes you want American to resume? Let us know in the comments!