Delta Air Lines Inc.’s passenger flights to China may be grounded, but that’s not stopping it from helping bolster medical collaboration between the U.S. and what was one of its fastest-growing markets.
The Atlanta airline March 30 launched nonstop cargo flights between Detroit and Shanghai, carrying medical supplies in an Airbus A350-900 to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
China, where the outbreak began, manufactures much of the world’s supply of medical masks and other personal protective equipment. Some of its exports were put on hold in the thick of its fight with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Having seemingly turned the tide, China is now back at work and is selling and donating supplies around the world.
“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 situation,” Shawn Cole, vice president of Delta Cargo, said in a news release. “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 is one of many Atlanta companies doing their part to alleviate medical supply shortages as the outbreak grows in the U.S., the hardest-hit nation by confirmed cases. The count was up past 200,000 Wednesday evening.
Delta hasn’t operated cargo-only flights since its recently acquired Northwest Airlines did in 2009.
Still, its deep reach on the passenger front makes it a substantial carrier of so-called “belly cargo,” goods that tag along with travelers’ luggage on flights around the world. Delta Cargo handled 421,000 tons of goods last year, from pharmaceuticals to fresh flowers, mail and heavy machinery.
While the virus has wreaked havoc on the economy and the airline industry as a whole, cargo brokers and freight operators have seen their business grow in the short-term as speed becomes paramount during a time marked by unpredictability.
Delta is offering charters of cargo planes to private enterprises. Fill out a request form here.