Sorry if I missed this somewhere, but did UA drop all cargo-only wide-body service? unitedcargo.com shows no such flights for July.
Yes cargo only flights will come to an end at the end of June.
As more countries reopen their borders or relax quarantine rules for fully vaccinated travelers United will use the widebody fleet to support our international operations, then there is also Hawaii which is already experiencing a huge increase in demand that demand is only expected to grow as Hawaii drops their testing requirement for fully vaccinated travelers.
Also United isn't alone in ending cargo only flights multiple international carriers have also announced starting in July they would either be installing the seats back on their widebodies or if they didn't take the seats out they would be moving them back to passengers service routes this summer. Most of these changes can be attributed to an increase in the number of international passenger flights but also a decrease in cargo revenue do to a decrease in shipping rates.
Thanks for the detailed reply. I noticed air freight rates coming out of China are finally dropping but still a bit surprised to see the drawdown.
I'm not surprised at all to see United drawdown cargo only flights starting next month. If we take China as an example every United flight passenger service/cargo only flight is operating with a stop either in ICN (SFO-PVG) or (NRT/GUM) for all our cargo only flights. The ICN stopover will remain because that flight is our one and only passenger service flight. However we know there are additional cost added in when making a stop in GUM or NRT before continuing onward to PVG/PEK/CTU. With air freight rates now dropping it is no longer profitable for United to continue operating cargo only flights out of Asia. Moving forward the plan in Asia is for United to fully utilize our passengers service flights to get cargo to NRT/HND/TPE/ICN and let our air freight partners in Asia take over from there to get the cargo to its final destination. Remember in Japan UA/NH have a JV that also covers air freight. In addition to NH, United has air freight partners all throughout Asia helping us move cargo. Time has come for us to once again rely on our partners.
Moving on to the South Pacific United has increase LAX-SYD operations to daily while continuing daily service on SFO-SYD. Dropping the extra 3x or 4x weekly LAX-SYD cargo only flight and dropping LAX-MEL weekly cargo only flight isn't going to be that much of a dent in how much cargo United moves into and out of Australia. United also has partners down in Australia that move cargo between MEL and SYD for us (I'm not sure if it is by road or by air but we do have partners moving cargo between those 2 airports).
Lastly we have Europe and just focusing on United the number of passenger service flights United resumed this spring along with the resumption of more flights in July is basically the reason why we are ending cargo only flights to/from Europe. With Lufthansa resuming I believe weekly if not daily service FRA-ATL-FRA the resumption of this service allows United to remove our 78X which has been operating cargo only flights off this route and route the cargo onto LH's flights. Just like ANA in Japan, United also has a JV that covers cargo with LH so it doesn't matter which airline operates the flight.
If Europe were to close back down and/or if air freight rates out of Asia were to increase this fall I think would bring back cargo only flights in a heart beat. On the other hand if borders continue to open and rules are relaxed it will just precipitate the continued fall of air freight rates. Sooner or later air freight rates will come down to their pre-pandemic levels at which point cargo only flights make no sense for United Airlines.