United has increased dedicated freight flights to 150 per week, with Cathay expecting to operate more than 250 cargo-only passenger flights in April, and Emirates currently operating flights to more than 50 destinations globally
As demand for air freight capacity continues despite the current inflated rates on many lanes, driven by the rush to ship healthcare equipment, passenger airlines are expanding their cargo-only flight networks.
United Cargo has increased its programme of cargo-only flights to 150 per week, using Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft from United's passenger fleet, noting that since the start of its charter flights on 19 March, the US airline has operated over 460 cargo-only flights and has moved over 7 million kgs of cargo solely on these flights. It said the numbers “are increasing every day” and “are even higher if you consider our full cargo network”.
It added: “We are now operating more than 150 cargo-only flights per week between six of our US hubs and 13 cities worldwide: CTU, HKG, PEK, PVG, SYD and TPE in the Asia Pacific; AMS, BRU, DUB, FRA and LHR in Europe; SJU in the Caribbean and TLV in the Middle East. We expect to add new cities soon and will continue to expand our cargo-only flights programme.”
Cathay Pacific, one of the first carriers to operate cargo-only passenger flights, said that in addition to adding more freighter flights it had operated a total of 257 pairs of cargo-only passenger flights in March and expects to operate a similar number of cargo-only passenger flights in April, “including on some long-haul routes such as the Southwest Pacific where air cargo capacity is extremely tight”.
The company said the commodity mix carried had also changed “with a surge in the transportation of medical supplies such as face masks, protective clothing, hand sanitiser and other pharmaceutical products. On the other hand, the volume of consumer goods such as garments and automobile parts declined.”
Emirates SkyCargo said it had “rapidly scaled up its cargo services to connect an increasing number of global destinations”, noting that the air cargo carrier was currently operating flights to 51 destinations globally, “out of which 19 cities are served by the Emirates SkyCargo Boeing 777 freighter aircraft offering up to 100 tonnes of capacity per flight and 38 destinations are served by dedicated cargo flights on Emirates' Boeing 777 passenger aircraft offering up to 50 tonnes belly capacity”.
Nabil Sultan, Emirates divisional senior vice president for cargo, said: “We have particularly ramped up operations for transporting cargo in the bellyhold of our passenger aircraft in the April, “expanding its network on a daily basis and some of the latest destinations for our cargo flights on passenger aircraft include Bangkok, Casablanca, Johannesburg, Singapore and Taipei. During the week ending 4 April 2020, he said Emirates SkyCargo had operated more than 160 flights on its freighter aircraft and close to 90 flights on its passenger aircraft; but by the following week, the air cargo carrier had operated close to 160 flights on its passenger aircraft alone.
Other major network airline groups including IAG Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo and Air France KLM Cargo have also been ramping up their cargo-only passenger flights, including KLM Cargo reviving its B747 combi aircraft to operate as semi-freighters. And Virgin Atlantic Cargo also announced yesterday it will resume scheduled services to China, operating three flights a week between Heathrow Airport and Shanghai, to help fill strong demand ex-Shanghai for healthcare shipments. Indeed, the cargo capacity on two of the three times weekly Boeing 787-9 flights from China will be used exclusively by the UK Department of Health and Social Care to increase deliveries of Personal Protective Equipment and medical supplies for front-line NHS healthcare staff.
Source: Lloyd’s List
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