Fleet upgrades, wider network and pharma fuel American

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Network expansion and fleet upgrades are driving cargo at American Airlines Cargo.

The carrier’s president, Jim Butler (pictured below) says he is encouraged by the figures and it is focused on operational reliability and investing in the business.

He explains: “The last couple of months have been encouraging and we have seen good volumes across the system and have seen a little bit of peak. A part of that is we have invested in our network and with the aircraft we have brought in – we have been able to add a lot of destinations, which are really key to cargo.

“The expansion of the network in Asia and other areas has enabled us to grow. We have added LA to Hong Hong and to Auckland and others, so the business is expanding nicely and one of the main investments we are making is to grow cargo.”

This year American has brought in more than $4 billion worth of new aircraft at a pace of one a week, including the first of 22 Boeing 787-9s, and the airline will have five by the end of 2016. Airbus A350s will follow in a few years.

Jim Butler

Butler says: “We have long road ahead of us for fleet renewal and expansion – the A350 is fantastic for cargo and we are excited about the 787-9 too – both are going to be great for us and complement the mini freighters we have on the 777-300ERs – it will continue to allow us to build up the network.”

The carrier has seen strong demand in a number of areas of the globe, but Asia and Europe, especially France, are the strongest. In France it is flying more cargo than ever through 12 different stations and even moving some into Barcelona and other areas.

Butler notes pharmaceuticals is the fastest growing sector, and the specialist facility opened in Philadelphia for its European network has boosted this. “We continue to invest in the general cool chain in other places and have a new drive through cooler in our Dallas hub and continue to find opportunities to grow that.

“Another area that has been good is Ireland and we have had more than we ever had this year – it is one of big locations for pharma and we have invested there and continue to see good growth,” Butler says.

An American Airlines Boeing 767 gets loaded at Heathrow Airport
An American Airlines Boeing 767 gets loaded at Heathrow Airport

But what about Brexit?

Butler says: “It is in the back of my mind, but we have not seen an impact in a negative way. In fact we have continued to break records of traffic out of Heathrow (LHR). Every time we hit a record we then hit another one. LHR continues to expand.

“We have 20 flights a day into London. The biggest concentration of capacity we have in Europe by far is in London and I am very bullish about the continued growth in London and we will continue to invest going forward.”

All in all, Butler says American is happy with how things have gone in 2016, as in 2015 it was tough to find “any peak in the numbers”. “We are encouraged by the business customers are bringing us and it is good because it is nice to see that coming and that comes from investments we have made such as in operational reliability.

“Our goal is to differentiate on the service we provide. We are pleased with the direction we are going.”