American Airlines to operate first cargo-only flight in 36 years due to coronavirus outbreak

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After drastic cutbacks to both its international and domestic service, American Airlines is transitioning to cargo-only flights.

This week, the carrier announced it would be transporting medical supplies, mail, electronics and more as part of its first cargo-only flights in 36 years, utilizing a passenger aircraft grounded due to coronavirus cutbacks.

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“We have a critical role to play in keeping essential goods moving during this unprecedented time, and we are proud to do our part and find ways to continue to serve our customers and our communities,” said Rick Elieson, the president of cargo, and the vice president of international operations at American Airlines, in a press release shared Thursday.

“Challenging times call for creative solutions, and a team of people across the airline has been working nonstop to arrange cargo-only flight options for our customers.”

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American’s first cargo-only flight since 1984 departs Friday from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), and will land on Saturday, at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) in Germany. After returning, the plane — a Boeing 777-300, with a capacity for 100,000 pounds of cargo — will make one more roundtrip flight to FRA.

The carrier's first cargo-only flights since 1984 will be making roundtrip flights to Germany, transporting medical supplies, mail, electronics and e-commerce packages.

The carrier's first cargo-only flights since 1984 will be making roundtrip flights to Germany, transporting medical supplies, mail, electronics and e-commerce packages. (iStock)

All four scheduled flights are “are expected to be booked to capacity and transport medical supplies, mail for active U.S. military, telecommunications equipment and electronics that will support people working from home, and e-commerce packages,” according to American Airlines.

Flights will be operated by only necessary crew members, the airline added.

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American Airlines’ Thursday announcement comes amid a time of uncertainty for the airline industry, with service slashed and demand for travel reportedly worse than it was post 9/11. Earlier this week, President Trump had expressed his desire to make the airline industry “No. 1” in terms of priority for a bailout, when discussing a potential $50 billion coronavirus stimulus plan during a White House press briefing.

In the meantime, American Airlines is reiterating that air cargo can play an important role during tumultuous times.

“Our team members across the airline are ready and willing to do what it takes to make sure people have the things they need during these unprecedented times,” an employee with American Airlines at DFW said in a press release.

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American Airlines will also continue to transport cargo domestically, via its passenger flights.