Delta Air Lines is expanding its cargo flight route network to further aid the global demand for medical supplies and goods in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airline has announced a set of three routes using their Airbus A350 aircraft on cargo-only trans-pacific flights, from the cities of Los Angeles (LAX/KLAX), and Detroit (DTW/KDTW). These were already two well-established trans-pacific passenger market hubs for Delta, but will now temporarily be operating cargo-only flights utilizing the full cargo payload capability of the aircraft, which is 49 tonnes worth.
The commencement of the expansion of cargo flights has already begun, which had started on April 14th, 2020, further complementing the pre-existing Detroit-Shanghai (PVG/ZSPD) cargo route.
The new route to Shanghai from Los Angeles will also include a stopover in Seoul, South Korea (ICN/RKSI) before heading onwards to its final destination in China. Delta plans to operate each of the routes three to four times a week.
“We know getting surgical masks, gloves, gowns and other protective equipment expeditiously to facilities across the country is imperative to protecting medical professionals and helping address the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Shawn Cole, Vice President – Delta Cargo. “Operating regularly scheduled cargo flights means suppliers in China can get these supplies to hospitals and healthcare facilities across the U.S. within hours, not the days or weeks it would take via cargo ship.”
Delta has also said that it intends to assess the demands for any further U.S. supply gateways in the future, if need be.
Delta has, in recent months, ramped up its cargo charter flight operations to help further global relief/aid efforts in attempts to help keep the transportation of essential goods for communities all across the world.
Additional measures have included their announcement of a change-up with the inherited A350 orders from LATAM airlines, which Delta had purchased a 20% stake in last fall. The purchase announced a plethora of new implications for the two airlines, the United States-South America market, as well as the transfer of both orders and on-property aircraft from LATAM to Delta (specifically in this case, more A350s).
Delta and LATAM had agreed to send over four aircraft that had already been delivered to LATAM, and they are eventually going to make their way to Delta at some point (initial delivery dates have most definitely been postponed/pushed back in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic).
Regarding the remainder of the ten aircraft on order, the agreement was that the delivery time frame from Airbus was from 2020. However, Delta has recently announced changes to this, and have now deferred those A350 deliveries to happen from 2020 until 2025 which was made in the airline's best interest of predicting the industry's recovery as a whole from the coronavirus, which may take a couple years to return to pre-COVID-19 levels of demand.
“Given the current environment, we are working in close partnership with Airbus on further rescheduling opportunities across our entire order book,” Delta spokeswoman Lisa Hanna said.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian had also said to employees in an official statement on Tuesday, April 13th, that the airline is expected to receive $5.4 Billion in payroll funding, which would help prevent furloughs and layoffs through the summer months, up until September 30th, 2020.
Delta Air Lines has also sought through other cash-preservation methods, such as leasing out some of their otherwise parked aircraft to aid in their dwindling income pool, which has seen a decline in around 95% of passenger traffic.