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An American Airlines 787-8 prepares to load cargo in Chicago (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Ian McMurtry)

American Grows Cargo Schedule as Shipping Demand Remains High

Lockdowns around the globe have created an increase in demand for shipping. The increase in demand in cargo is contrary to the drastic and dramatic drop in passenger demand as well as commercial flights. The reduction in passenger flights has lead to a drop in capacity for cargo as well. In response, passenger airlines have begun operation cargo-only flights utilizing their passenger there aircraft, including American Airlines.

Since the end of March, the airline has been operating cargo-only flights to Europe and Asia. Beginning June 4, the airline will double the number of weekly cargo flights that are operated. Weekly flights will be increased to 282 flights from the 140 weekly flights in May. The cargo flights are operated by the airline’s Boeing 777 and Boeing 787 aircraft.

The expanded schedule includes, in Asia, twice-daily flights between Los Angeles and Shanghai, as well as daily flights between Los Angeles and Dallas, and Hong Kong. The European schedule includes daily flights between Dallas and Amsterdam, Paris, London, and Frankfurt. In addition, American will operate flights between Philadelphia and Rome, Frankfurt, and Zurich. Domestically, the airline is operating cargo flights between Dallas and Miami, Chicago, Maui, and Honolulu, as well as between Los Angeles and Miami.

In April the FAA issued guidance for operating flights with cargo in the passenger cabin. The agency gave authorization for storage of cargo in the passenger cabin, utilizing overhead bins and storage space under passenger seats. Airlines will need to obtain special permission to operate flights with cargo in the passenger seats or removing passenger seats altogether. In addition, the FAA recommends that passenger aircraft carrying cargo still maintain crew members in the cabin, as passenger aircraft do not have the same fire detection or suppression systems as cargo aircraft.

Other Cargo-Only Commercial Carriers

North of the border, Air Canada has been operating cargo flights without passenger seats on certain Boeing 777 and deHaviland Dash 8 aircraft. The move was approved by Transport Canada with safety precautions such as netting in the cabin to prevent the shifting of the cargo. Airlines across the globe are expected to follow suit as passenger demand slowly recovers and cargo demand remains high.

Cargo flights on passenger aircraft have become critical for the movement of goods. On normal passenger flights, space in the cargo hold is reserved for cargo and mail. With fewer flights and many routes suspended, critical supply chains have been disrupted, including supplies needed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. The increase of cargo flights by American not only provides a needed lifeline to the stricken carrier but also a needed lifeline to the communities served by the flights.

Daniel Morley
Daniel Morley
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