American Airlines adapt with cargo-only flights

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American Airlines planes at Chicago O'Hare Airport

American Airlines is utilising its currently grounded aircraft to move cargo between the United States and Europe, to keep supply chains and business moving.

The first flight of the Boeing 777-300 departed from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport March 20 and landed at Frankfurt Airport on March 21. The aircraft, carrying only cargo, will complete two round trips between the airports over the course of the next few days. This is the first scheduled cargo-only flight since 1984 when American retired the last of its Boeing 747 freighters.

The 777-300 has 14 cargo positions for large pallets and can carry more than 100,000 pounds. The four scheduled flights between March 20 and 22 are expected to be booked to capacity and transport medical supplies, mail for active U.S. military, telecommunications equipment and electronics that will support people working from home, and e-commerce packages. The flights provide much-needed cargo capacity for many of the airline’s regular cargo customers, allowing them to continue operating in this challenging environment.

The move comes soon after TIACA emphasised the importance of the air cargo industry in the fight against COVID-19. Air cargo has always played a key role in times of crisis, delivering lifesaving medical supplies and materials to keep the world’s infrastructure intact. In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, this role has never been more important as the world relies more on e-commerce to support basic needs during quarantines and social distancing. The airlines’ role is deemed a critical infrastructure industry by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We have a critical role to play in keeping essential goods moving during this unprecedented time, and we are proud to do our part and find ways to continue to serve our customers and our communities,” said Rick Elieson, president of cargo and vice president of international operations. “Challenging times call for creative solutions, and a team of people across the airline has been working nonstop to arrange cargo-only flight options for our customers.”