Airlines Change to Cargo-Only Flights as a Result of the COVID-19 Pandemic


Passenger air travel has historically declined in the past few weeks due to COVID-19. Globally, airlines have canceled more than 185,000 flights since the end of January, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Airlines are facing almost-empty flights as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and some of the world’s biggest airlines are turning their focus to cargo.

Here are some interesting facts around the U.S. and world:

  • Delta Airlines started regular cargo-only flights which have not operated since 2009.
  • American Airlines had their first cargo-only flight since 1984.
  • According to the Transportation Security Administration, passenger traffic at was down 93% at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport checkpoints March 29th, compared with a year ago.
  • Southwest Airlines started to offer cargo-only flights for the first time in its nearly 50-year history.
  • Deutsche Lufthansa AG has cut 95 percent of its passenger flights and decided to use some of those for cargo-only flight.

The outlook is so dramatic that the U.S. airline industry has already asked for more than $50 billion in federal aid. It is not hard to understand most of the airline’s cargo-only flight choices when there is a combination of low jet fuel prices, pilots who are being paid whether or not they fly, and high freight rates.

Airlines will also have to figure out flight crew assignments and make sure have enough staff around, with the proper equipment, to run a cargo operation. However, they’ve experienced similar situations before, such as the 2002 SARS contagion and during the 2015 port strikes on the U.S. West Coast.

It looks like the current situation will be continuing for airlines at least 1-2 more months, and it will take some time until things get back to normal even when the current pandemic ends.


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