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United Airlines is seeing cargo volumes quickly ramping up as its network expands, with some capacities back to pre-pandemic levels.
Transatlantic operations have seen significant increases in capacity, mainly on the US-Europe sector and United claims it is now the largest US carrier flying to and from Europe.
“We are excited about our increased transatlantic flight schedule, because it means more routing options and solutions for customers,” said Marco Vezjak, director of cargo sales – North America. Ten new routes include Bergen in Norway, Nice in France, Ponta Delgada in Portugal and a link between Spain and Tokyo Narita starting next month.
“With the extensive US domestic network, along with our robust Intra-European trucking network, we can offer multiple options between any given origin and destination within these regions. ”
Mr Vezjak revealed to The Loadstar that cargo had achieved year-on-year growth every month this year on this critical tradelane.
Asia may be recovering slower from the pandemic, but the region is still a key focus market for United Cargo.
“We are on the way to getting back to near pre-pandemic flight schedules in markets like Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore,” said Mr Vezjak.
In fact, by early this month, the airline had brought back freight capacity on the Nagoya and Fukuoka to Guam service, while flights to Tokyo were operated throughout the pandemic and Osaka to Guam resumed last month. So now United has resumed all four Guam-Japan routes it flew pre-pandemic.
On the flip side, due to continued travel and entry limitations aand other regional challenges, United is still operating reduced flight schedules in some of the Far East key markets. As a response, the airline developed alternative solutions to continue services to the region throughout the pandemic.
Mr Vezjak said the airline would still operate a cargo-only network between Hong Kong and the Guam hub, using B777-300s.
“In addition, we work with our joint-venture and airline partners on contractual capacity agreements, which allow us to offer a reliable service and consistent access to capacity beyond our own network. This has allowed us to remain successful in this market, but we are looking forward to growing our own network again.”
In November, United plans direct services between Washington DC and Cape Town, South Africa. The route joins its other Africa operations, from New York/Newark to Johannesburg and Washington to Accra, Ghana and Lagos, that started last year.
“Cargo demand has been very high and the additional flight into Cape Town will complement our flight into Johannesburg.”
On the possibility of partnerships to serve other parts of southern Africa thirsty for cargo capacity to and from the US, Mr Vezjak said: “We will look at this to see if certain local partnerships make sense for us. We already use intra-African interline options, and this new flight may present us with additional options beyond Cape Town.”
Looking ahead, at sustainability initiatives, Mr Vezjak said the goal was to partner with more freight forwarders in the airline’s Eco-Skies Alliance programme, which aims to find innovative paths towards decarbonisation. In conjunction with sustainable aviation fuel, he said United Cargo was looking at other sustainable opportunities, such as biodegradable pallet wraps, evaluating carbon emissions associated with trucking and creating a framework for procuring low-carbon goods and services.