Could Cargo Drive Delta’s International Route Resumptions?

Delta Air Lines has resumed two transatlantic services as of May 14th. The airline will start thrice-weekly services across the pond to London-Heathrow and Frankfurt using widebody aircraft. At this time, cargo is the primary driver of demand. However, the airline will be selling passenger seats on those routes. So, could cargo be the key to returning international routes?

Delta A330
Delta is resuming two transatlantic services this month. Photo: Airbus

Delta resumes flying to Frankfurt and London

From Atlanta, Delta is flying to Frankfurt using an Airbus A330-300. Flights will start on May 21st, operating thrice-weekly. Departing Atlanta, flights will leave on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The return flights depart for Atlanta the next day.

Delta A330
An A330-300 will fly from Atlanta to Frankfurt. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

To London, Delta is flying a Boeing 767-300ER out of Detroit. These flights will operate on the same days as Frankfurt– departing for Europe on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The return flights take place the following day.

Cargo-driven resumptions

Delta elaborated further that these passenger resumptions were driven by cargo demand. The Atlanta to Frankfurt leg is part of a broader Los Angeles to Frankfurt cargo connection with a stop in Atlanta. With the ability to carry 31 tons of cargo, the A330 will also carry passengers between Los Angeles and Atlanta.

Meanwhile, the Detroit to London service is part of a broader Chicago to London service via Detroit. This 767-300ER flight has 26 tons of cargo capacity.

Flying Chicago-Detriot-London, the Boeing 767 can carry 26 tons of cargo. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Delta is also eyeing JFK to Mumbai cargo-only services. However, this flight is subject to foreign government approval. If approved, Delta plans to launch thrice-weekly cargo-only flights.

Will cargo drive international route resumptions?

Delta had previously planned an ambitious Latin America schedule this month. However, the airline quickly cut long-haul passenger flights to South America with Caribbean and Central American routes soon after.

Delta 757
Delta cut its Latin American schedules significantly. Photo: Getty Images

However, as South America continues to weather this awful crisis, there is a strong demand for cargo operations. Aerolineas Argentinas flew Airbus A330s to China, via Auckland, to bring back critical medical supplies. Meanwhile, one of Latin America’s largest carriers, Avianca, is currently in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings in the United States and may soon emerge with smaller cargo operations than it has presently.

Delta Getty
The 767 could be a perfect aircraft for carrying both cargo and passengers to South America. Photo: Getty Images

Plus, Delta has a new advantage in South America: LATAM. Through this partnership, Delta can seriously expand the number of connections for freight. However, some countries are putting strong entry restrictions in place, limiting access.

Delta could leverage a partnership with LATAM for carrying cargo to South America. Photo: Tom Boon/Simple Flying

However, if there is demand for cargo, Delta could start flying Boeing 767s, 757s, or Airbus A330s down to South America carrying both cargo and passengers. This could happen if there is not enough cargo demand to warrant putting freight in the passenger cabin. Plus, if Delta extends its social distancing policy, it could give the airline an excuse for flying fewer passengers.

However, much of this expansion will depend on how governments choose to open up borders. Some countries have expanded options with testing on arrival for tourists.

Do you think cargo demand will drive Delta’s international route resumptions? Let us know in the comments!