United Airlines is U.S. Leader in Passenger Airline Cargo Ops Performance

Q2 placed United Airlines ahead of other U.S. airlines as the leader of passenger airline cargo operational performance.

When the coronavirus airline crisis hit United was quick to recognize the need to find the best solutions for boosting revenue. The airline first focused on its aggressive plan in March, when the reality of the pandemic first hit home. With passenger counts at unprecedented low levels, the airline transformed some of its passenger planes to cargo planes.

This video, produced by United and available on YouTube, describes how United Cargo keeps the world connected.

In order to fill the cargo-only flights, United Airlines quickly performed some crucial steps:

  • The operations planning cargo team initiated a strong plan of action.
  • The team leveraged its hub locations, and
  • Strong relations were built with freight forwarders to make cargo operations a reality.

This was a move that paid off handsomely for United.

United Airlines Q2 record cargo performance

United’s second-quarter (Q2) July earnings revealed a 36.3% increase in cargo revenue at the tune of $402 million.

Although cargo-ton-miles fell 40.3% to 496 million, premium shipping prices played a large part in the gain of revenue.

United’s Cargo revenue represented 27.3% of the company’s total operating revenue compared to 2.6% in the same period in 2019! Analyzing the half-year results, United’s cargo revenue grew 14.6% to $666 million.

United CEO Scott Kirby said,

“Our commercial team has done a better job, I think than any airline in the entire world recognizing what the pandemic has meant for demand and taking advantage of opportunities where they present themselves. Our cargo team, led by Jan Krems, (generated a) 36% increase in cargo. I mean, who would have ever thought we could do something like that?”

How did United transform its operations into cargo?

Idle (of passengers) planes and the below-the-cabin cargo compartments were transformed into functioning cargo-planes on cargo-only scheduled routes. United also began operating flights, placing mail and lightweight cargo in the seats, and in the cabin storage spaces. First, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave approval for such operations.

united dominates cargo performance
United Airlines Boeing 757. Photo:

Cargo Revenue Comparisons: United versus Delta and American

  • Delta Air Lines: 42% drop to $108 million for Q2. Delta experienced a 31% first-half of 2020 revenue drop.
  • American Airlines: 41% drop to $130 million for Q2. American experienced a 37% first-half of 2020 revenue drop.

Number of flights

According to spokespersons from the following airlines, here are the stats for the flights that operated as a combination of passenger and cargo flights since March 19:

  • United has flown more than 4,000 combined passenger/cargo flights with 130 million pounds of cargo.
  • Delta’s combined passenger/cargo flights amount to only 1,100.
  • American’s combined passenger/cargo flights came to 1,224.

Disclosure: The author of this article is an independent writer for Captain Jetson Aviation and Travel News. He has no ties or stock ownership or any other interest in United Airlines. The content or views expressed in this article is entirely the journalist’s personal opinion. For any corrections to the story, please contact us here.

Featured Image: United Airlines.

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