Delta Ups Cargo Flights to Seoul And Shanghai

Delta Air Lines is expanding its Asia cargo operations. Using both Boeing 777-200ERs and Airbus A350-900s, Delta will offer 14 weekly cargo flights between the United States and East starting today. This includes a new cargo-only service from Atlanta to Seoul. These additional flights come less than a month after the carrier inaugurated thrice-weekly cargo-only services between Detroit and Shanghai.

Delta 777
Delta is adding 777 cargo-only services between Atlanta and Seoul. Photo: Getty Images

Additional cargo-only services with passenger jets

The new gateway from the United States is Delta’s largest hub in Atlanta. From Seoul, a 777-200ER will depart for Atlanta on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Meanwhile, the Shanghai to Detroit flight will now operate daily using an Airbus A350. The existing Shanghai to Los Angeles flight will continue to fly thrice-weekly on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The flights from Detroit and Los Angeles operate with a stop in Seoul.

In total, the carrier will offer twice-daily cargo-only service between Shanghai and Seoul and between Seoul and the United States. These flights will operate alongside passenger service from the South Korean capital city to Delta hubs in Detroit and Seattle. Both of these passenger services operate five times per week.

Cargo only
Both the A350 and 777 carry 42 tons of cargo in the hold. Photo: Delta Air Lines

The 777-200ERs and A350-900s carry a similar amount of cargo according to the airline. Both can haul up to 42 tons of cargo in the hold. However, the A350 is more fuel-efficient than the 777. It appears that, unlike other airlines, Delta will not be storing cargo inside the passenger cabin.

From its hubs in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Atlanta, Delta can then transfer the cargo to domestic flights. These shipments primarily consist of medical equipment like masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals.

Why is Delta adding more flights?

Delta initiated these cargo-only flights as a result of growing demand in the United States for supplies produced in China. Previously, some of this cargo would be able to come with passengers onboard a flight. However, with passenger flights suspended from China, freight needs other ways to get to the United States.

A330neo in a hanagar
Airlines have parked aircraft and suspended passenger flights between the United States and China. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Unlike LATAM and Qatar Airways, Delta does not have a dedicated cargo fleet, which is why passenger aircraft are being used for these missions. Before merging with Delta, Northwest Airlines operated a cargo division using Boeing 747 freighters. However, this division was axed as part of the merger. Now, Delta does fly cargo, however, only in conjunction with passenger services.

Delta Ups Cargo Flights to Seoul And Shanghai
Northwest Airlines used to operate a cargo division with 747s. Photo: Frank K. via Wikimedia Commons

Will this be the future?

Cargo is turning into a lifeline for airlines. The demand for vital goods is up around the world, and there are not enough cargo jets to supplement the lost capacity from suspended passenger flights. This is why a quick search on a tracking software like FlightAware or Flightradar24 reveals many planes still flying long-haul routes.

There is a lot of debate about what the world will look like in a few months. However, one thing is clear; cargo will still need to fly around the world even if the number of passengers flying remains low. This is leading some companies to turn to innovation and find new ways to transport both cargo and passengers, especially as there are very few combi aircraft left in operation.

Do you think Delta should launch more cargo-only flights? Let us know in the comments!