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A DHL 777F in Everett, Wash. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Mesa Air Group Signs Contract With DHL, Adds Boeing 737

Mesa Air Group, a major regional carrier in the United States, announced Monday that it will provide air cargo services for DHL Express starting this year. Mesa will inaugurate the Boeing 737-400F into its fleet for the flights.

The contract will see Mesa operate two cargo aircraft out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport over five years. The airline will lease two 737s from DHL for the services, the first of which is scheduled to start service in October.

Mesa Airlines did not immediately respond to AirlineGeeks’ request for comment. 

“We are very excited to enter the cargo market and diversify our business. Flying under contract on behalf of DHL is essentially the same business model Mesa has operated under for over 20 years,” said Jonathan Ornstein, Mesa’s chairman and chief executive, in a press release. “Cargo transport plays a critical role in the health of communities and economies around the world. Mesa is well-suited for this new mission, and this is just the beginning of what we believe will be a long and productive relationship with DHL.”

“I’d like to thank all the people at Mesa, their counterparts at DHL and the FAA, who worked hard to bring this program to fruition,” said Captain Mike Ferverda, Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, who is leading Mesa’s 737 certification process. “While much of the industry is challenged given the present COVID environment, we are pleased to expand our growth opportunities with this project.”

These 737s will be the first to serve in Mesa’s fleet. The carrier currently operates Bombardier CRJ100s, CRJ700s, and CRJ900s in addition to Embraer 175s. It has 50 Mitsubishi SpaceJet M100s on order. 

At the time of writing, no other regional airline in the United States operates 737s, making Mesa the first of its kind to do so. This could make Mesa an attractive employer for young pilots who want to gain experience in the 737, which is used by a significant portion of U.S. airlines, without jumping into a mainline legacy airline.

The regional carrier touched on its plans to operate 737s in a recent AirlineGeeks interview.

Mesa has been considering operating the 737 for a while now. In late June, Ornstein said that the airline was moving forward with plans to hire fleet managers to use the jet for freight, adding that the cargo industry has “immediate opportunities” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“This new cargo operation opens new doors for Mesa,” said Mesa Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Brad Rich. “We are proud to offer new opportunities to our employees as we enter the cargo industry. In particular, Mesa pilots will now have the ability to earn a 737 type rating and receive the highest pay in the regional industry, all without leaving the company.”

It is currently unclear if Mesa will focus on specific sectors through Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. The carrier’s only international destinations are to Canada and Mexico, and flights to other countries in DHL’s worldwide network could prove additional hoops for Mesa to jump through to coordinate customs clearances for crews. However, serving a set number of destinations could streamline Mesa’s operations and reduce hassle in the long run.

John McDermott
John McDermott
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