Delta to operate daily scheduled US-Shanghai cargo flights

Airbus A350-900s taken out of passenger service are ferrying medical supplies between the US and Asia.

Delta Air Lines will operate daily, scheduled all-cargo service connecting the US, South Korea and China starting April 16 to transport medical supplies to healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delta started operating 4X-weekly all-cargo flights between Detroit (DTW) and Shanghai (PVG) with a stop at Seoul Incheon (ICN) on March 30.

Starting April 16, it will additionally fly a 3X-weekly Los Angeles (LAX)-ICN-PVG all-cargo flight, meaning it has 7X-weekly service.

The flights are being operated with Airbus A350-900s that have been taken out of Delta’s international passenger network because of the demand drop associated with COVID-19. The aircraft can hold up to 49 tons of cargo in the belly hold.

Delta Cargo VP Shawn Cole told Routes the airline is working with the FAA to look at “some scenarios to expand cargo capacity into the passenger cabin” as well. “We are reviewing utilizing overhead bins, cargo in and under seats, as well as removing seats,” he added.

The A350-900 flights will move surgical masks, gloves, gowns and other protective equipment manufactured in Asia expeditiously to facilities across the US.

When the A350s arrive at LAX or DTW, cargo can be transferred into the bellies of narrowbody aircraft still operating reduced domestic passenger operations.

“Operating regularly scheduled cargo flights means suppliers in China can get these supplies to hospitals and healthcare facilities across the US within hours, not the days or weeks it would take via cargo ship,” Cole said.

“Given the drastic reduction of international capacity, almost all our international shipments are either medical supplies or COVID-19 related,” Cole said.

“The disruption of the supply chain means that air capacity is needed for medical supplies, such as masks or pharmaceuticals, as well as indirectly related items like perishable foods or electronics to help children continue their education from home.”  

Photo credit: Airbus / A. Doumenjou