Japan Airlines (JAL) has resumed scheduled freighter service after a nine-year absence by entering into a “codeshare agreement” with U.S. cargo airline Kalitta Air.
Under the service, JAL will market scheduled freighter service between Chicago and Tokyo on three weekly flights operated by Kalitta. Kalitta will place a JAL flight number on the aircraft, thus allowing for the codeshare agreement to take effect.
The first flight, a Boeing 747-400, arrived on August 2 at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport carrying 60 tons of cargo, according to a report.
JAL does not own or operate any freighters, having eliminated its nine-plane freighter fleet in 2010, the same year it filed for bankruptcy protection. Today, it carries cargo in the lower-deck compartments of its passenger aircraft. It also charters freighter capacity on a seasonal basis.
Founded in 1951, JAL was one of the world’s most prominent air cargo carriers for decades, with its influence peaking in the 1970s and 1980s along with that of its home country. Its decline mirrored that of Japan’s, starting in the late 1980s. The emergence of China as a competitor to Japan for air-freighted goods, and a lessening appetite for trans-Pacific airfreight services in general, also contributed to JAL’s downfall.
The Chicago-Tokyo traffic lane has long been considered one of the most important air cargo corridors in the world.
Kalitta Air was founded in 2000 by industry icon Conrad Kalitta, better known in industry circles as “Connie.” Kalitta started in the air cargo business in 1967 transporting auto parts with a twin-engine Cessna that he flew. His company, American International Airways (AIA), would become one of the 25 largest global airlines with strong positions in cargo, military charter and air ambulance operations.
In 1997, AIA merged with competitor Kitty Hawk, Inc. and Kalitta resigned to form an aircraft leasing concern. In April 2000, the former AIA, by then known as Kitty Hawk International, ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy protection. Kalitta applied with the U.S. government to purchase Kitty Hawak’s aircraft certificate. The transaction was approved in November 2000 and Kalitta Air soon after began revenue service.
For decades Kalitta has been a professional drag racer, and is almost as renowned for his driving acumen as for his aviation skills. He has won five world championships and has set the world’s speed record on more than one occasion, according to information on the Kalitta Air website.