American Airlines to conduct 1,000 cargo-only flights in September

By Damian Brett

American Airlines will fly 1,000 cargo-only flights in September after only returning to all-cargo operations in March.

The airline re-launched cargo-only flights in March, with 20 strategic flights to two key destinations. The airline’s last freighter flight took place in 1984.

“A plan that began as an experiment has now grown exponentially over the last six months,” the airline said.

“Since being reintroduced, American’s cargo-only flights — which hadn’t been operated in more than 35 years — have moved more than 45m pounds of cargo around the world. But getting the first flight off the ground was nothing short of a symphony, played by team members from across the company.”

“We didn’t have a playbook. We’d never done this before,” said Maulin Vakil, American’s director of cargo revenue at the time. “We began to explore how much cargo we could take if we couldn’t transport passengers.”

After exploring options, the group began planning a cargo-only flight from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Frankfurt (FRA) scheduled to take off on Friday, March 20.

“While figuring out the safety, logistics and economics of the flight was a challenge, team members were prepared for the test,” American said. “Crews were briefed, safety procedures were established, and international rules were carefully followed.

“Four days after the team set their plan into motion, American operated a Boeing 777-300 from DFW to FRA as its first cargo-only flight of the 21st century.”

American then expanded its cargo-only flights to Hong Kong (HKG), Shanghai (PVG), Beijing (PEK) and Seoul (ICN).

“We essentially started our own little airline,” said Tom Howard, a manager at American’s integrated operations center. “We had to build all of this out and coordinate how it flows with our scheduled passenger service because, well, we’re a passenger airline.”

This September, more than 1,000 scheduled cargo-only flights will be accompanied by more than 1,200 passenger flights also offering cargo services.

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