Cathay Pacific is launching a temporary cargo service to Pittsburgh using reconfigured Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft. The flights will operate twice weekly until the end of November. The inaugural flight touched down at Pittsburgh on Monday morning. It will bring to 20 the number of Cathay Pacific cargo destinations across the Americas.
“Cathay Pacific is excited to link Hong Kong, one of the world’s key intermodal airfreight hubs, to Pittsburgh,” said Fred Ruggiero, Cathay Pacific’s Cargo Vice President for the Americas, in a statement seen by Simple Flying.
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Cathay Pacific flies into Pittsburgh until the end of November
The new flights come on the back of Pittsburgh beefing up its cargo processing facilities. A new 75,000 square foot cargo terminal and adjacent apron space will allow the airport to handle bigger dedicated cargo planes and more of them.
Pittsburgh is nicely located midway between the big east coast airports and midwest centers like Chicago. There’s easy road, rail, and air access to nearly all the key United States markets.
“Pittsburgh sits within a 24-hour drive of about two-thirds of the US population,” Unique Logistics’ Marc Schlossberg told Airways. The freight forwarder was integral to enticing the airline to Pittsburgh.
“You need to have the runways, the facilities, and the cargo handlers in place, and Pittsburgh has that. You couldn’t bring a Boeing 777 or a large aircraft to a smaller airport. Pittsburgh is kind of ready-made to operate a flight like this.”
The converted Boeing 777-300ER cargo flight originates in Ho Chi Minh City and flies to Pittsburgh via Hong Kong. Onboard Monday’s flight were 3,500 boxes of consumer goods manufactured across Asia and bound for households throughout the United States.
Today, @cathaypacific in partnership with Unique Logistics, launched twice-weekly cargo service. Operated on a Boeing 777-300ER, the service demonstrates our region’s significance as an international logistics center & alternative to congested hubs. More: https://t.co/A3uHED4oPx pic.twitter.com/47uAGT2Kxw
— Pittsburgh International Airport (@PITairport) September 21, 2020
Cathay Pacific uses a converted passenger aircraft on the Pittsburgh route
The choice of aircraft used on this sector is noteworthy. Typically, Cathay Pacific deploys Boeing 747-8F aircraft on its cargo runs. The airline has 14 dedicated 747-8F planes. But with passenger demand in the doldrums, Cathay Pacific has converted two of its passenger 777-300ERs into cargo-only planes.
Seats haven’t been completely cleared from the main deck of the two 777s. Instead, seats have only gone from the economy and premium economy cabins. Instead of passengers, Cathay Pacific can fit up to 12 tonnes of cargo into that space. That’s in addition to what can fit into the plane’s belly.
“Cargo remains a bright spot for the airline during this challenging time. This temporary expansion underscores Cathay Pacific’s commitment to our freight forwarder partners, who requested an expanded cargo service to meet heightened demand,” said Mr Ruggiero.
Cathay Pacific says it flew 436 pairs of cargo-only flights using ex-passenger aircraft in August. Those flights carried 102,122 tons of cargo and mail.
Pittsburgh Airport develops its cargo facilities and looks to attract more flights
Pittsburgh Airport is also pleased to have Cathay Pacific touch down. The airport, its owner, and stakeholders are making a concerted effort to develop its cargo handling capacities and attract new airlines.
“Pittsburgh’s history is as a hub for transportation and logistics. We continue to have that industry as a core part of our economy, which is why I’m proud to welcome Cathay Pacific,” said Allegheny County Airport Authority Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
“We know now, more than ever, how important it is to move products around the world quickly and efficiently.”