Delta Resumes Detroit To Shanghai Airbus A350 Flights – Here’s Why

In recent days, the news coming out of most airlines is the suspension of services and a cut in major long-haul flying. But, on March 30th, Delta Air Lines resumed flights between Detroit and Shanghai using an Airbus A350. The reason for this is to support important cargo links.

Delta A350
Delta Air Lines is running special cargo-only Airbus A350 flights to Shanghai. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Delta resumes Shanghai flights

On March 30th, DL583 took off from Detroit en route to Shanghai. Onboard Delta’s flagship aircraft, however, were no passengers.

Delta One A350
The Delta One cabin went out completely empty of paying customers. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Instead, as per an announcement from the airline, the jet was flying to Shanghai to pick up cargo. The thrice weekly flights will bring back important items from Shanghai that will then transfer off to domestic flights in Delta’s Detroit hub.

A350 Delta
The A350 will bring cargo back from Shanghai. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Delta Cargo’s Vice President, Shawn Cole, had the following to say:

“We know getting surgical masks, gloves, gowns and other protective equipment expeditiously to facilities across the country is imperative to protecting medical professionals and helping address the COVID-19 situation. Operating regularly scheduled cargo flights means suppliers in China can get these supplies to hospitals and healthcare facilities across the U.S. within hours, not the days or weeks it would take via cargo ship.”

The service will operate thrice weekly. Flights will depart Detroit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays with returns from Shanghai scheduled on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Depending on demand, Delta left open the option to increase these flights to daily operation or else add flights from additional U.S. gateways – probably Delta hubs.

Delta Shanghai Cargo
For now, Delta is only flying this route thrice-weekly. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Onboard, the Airbus A350 has a capacity to carry up to 49 tons of cargo in the hold. These flights will be the first cargo-only routes between China and the United States on Delta. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last time the airline flew cargo-only flights was pre-merger under the Northwest Airlines banner.

Cargo-only operations

More and more airlines are running cargo-only flights across the globe to transport necessary medical equipment, mail and support for militaries, and other freight. Delta has also been doing this. This includes recent flights between Dublin and Atlanta and Los Angeles and Sydney.

A350 front view
Delta has operated other cargo-only flights in recent days. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Despite the sharp decrease in the number of passengers, air cargo links are still incredibly important. The effort to fight the pandemic spans the entire world as countries and corporations send medical supplies and equipment to hotspot areas across the globe. Cargo-only flights are also a way for airlines to make some money amid incredibly negative financial pressures.

Delta can still make some money off of transporting cargo across the world. Photo: Delta Air Lines

In addition to this, Delta is working with local authorities to provide free flights for qualified medical volunteers in hotspot areas in the United States.


Delta is resuming service between Detroit and Shanghai with Airbus A350 aircraft. These cargo-only flights are designed to facilitate the transport of key medical equipment and give Delta some additional revenue. If there is sufficient demand, Delta has left open options to expand these cargo-only flights from additional U.S. gateways– most likely from a hub like Seattle or Los Angeles from which the cargo can connect to areas in need of supplies.

Do you think Delta’s cargo-only Shanghai flights are a good idea? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments!