(Updated April 23, 6:00 P.M. ET, with details on American Airlines and United Airlines)
Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) is expanding its Asia cargo operations to meet high transportation demand for medical supplies and other essential items. Delta said it will now operate twice-daily flights between Seoul and Shanghai, add four-times weekly service between Atlanta and Seoul and increase its Detroit-Seoul cargo-only service to daily.
The new flights complement the existing Detroit-Seoul-Shanghai service, which previously operated four-times weekly, and the Los Angeles-Seoul-Shanghai flight, which operates three-times weekly.
Many passenger airlines have launched on-demand charter flights for cargo customers, but Delta is one of the few that has also built routes with scheduled service. American Airlines now operates 46 scheduled cargo-only flights each week.
The Atlanta flight, utilizing Delta’s largest hub airport, will be operated using Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, which can carry up to 42 tons of cargo in the hold. The Detroit service will use fuel-efficient Airbus A350-900 aircraft, which have similar cargo space.
Once the cargo arrives at the U.S. airports it is transferred to domestic passenger flights to be shipped to destinations around the country.
“With medical equipment in such high demand, we are doing all we can to help the supply chain and get surgical masks, gloves, gowns and other protective equipment to medical professionals across the country as quickly as we can,” said Shawn Cole,vice president of Delta Cargo, in a statement.
Special cargo flights operated by passenger airlines are helping replace some of the cargo capacity lost when airlines were forced by coronavirus travel restrictions to ground most of their fleets.
In related news, United Airlines (NASDAQ: UAL) says it has operated more than 600 cargo-only charter flights in just over a month, moving 10 million kilograms of cargo, including personal protective equipment for essential workers. It currently operates 220 cargo-only flights per week between six U.S. hubs and 13 cities worldwide, United Cargo President Jan Krems said in a message to customers Thursday.