Cargo airline

Last updated
A Boeing 747-400F of Cargolux Cargolux B747-400F.jpg
A Boeing 747-400F of Cargolux

Cargo airlines (or air freight carriers, and derivatives of these names) are airlines mainly dedicated to the transport of cargo by air. Some cargo airlines are divisions or subsidiaries of larger passenger airlines. In 2018, airline cargo traffic represented 262,333 million tonne-kilometres with a 49.3% load factor: 52.1% for dedicated cargo operations, and 47.9% within mixed operations (belly freight of passenger airliners). [1]


Freight rates

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, adjusted cargo capacity fell by 4.4% in February while air cargo demand also fell by 9.1%, but the near-halt in passenger traffic cut capacity even deeper as half of global air cargo is carried in passenger jets’ bellies. Air freight rates rose as a consequence, from $0.80 per kg for transatlantic cargoes to $2.50-4 per kg, enticing passenger airlines to operate cargo-only flights through the use of preighters, while cargo airlines bring back into service fuel-guzzling stored aircraft, helped by falling oil prices. [2]


UPS hub at Louisville International Airport Ups worldport.jpg
UPS hub at Louisville International Airport

Air transport is a component of many international logistics networks, managing and controlling the flow of goods, energy, information and other resources like products, services, and people, from the source of production to the marketplace. Logistics involves the geographical repositioning of raw materials, work in process, and finished inventories. [3]

Aircraft used

The Antonov An-225, the largest aircraft, used by Antonov Airlines Antonov An-225 Beltyukov-1.jpg
The Antonov An-225, the largest aircraft, used by Antonov Airlines

Larger cargo airlines tend to use new or recently built aircraft to carry their freight. However, many still utilize older aircraft, including those no longer suited for passenger service, like the Boeing 707, Boeing 727, Douglas DC-8, McDonnell Douglas DC-10, McDonnell Douglas MD-11, Airbus A300, and the Ilyushin Il-76. Examples of the 80+-year-old Douglas DC-3 are still flying around the world carrying cargo (as well as passengers). Short range turboprop airliners such as the Antonov An-12, Antonov An-26, Fokker Friendship, and British Aerospace ATP are being modified to accept standard air freight pallets to extend their working lives. This normally involves the replacement of glazed windows with opaque panels, the strengthening of the cabin floor and insertion of a broad top-hinged door in one side of the fuselage.

The Antonov An-225 Mriya, an enlarged version of the Antonov An-124 Ruslan, is the world's largest aircraft, used for transporting large shipments and oversized cargos. [4] [5]

Usage of large military airplanes for commercial purposes, pioneered by Ukraine's Antonov Airlines in the 1990s, has allowed new types of cargo in aerial transportation.

In the past, some cargo airlines would carry a few passengers from time to time on flights, and UPS Airlines once unsuccessfully tried a passenger charter airline division.

The Boeing 747 is also widely used as a cargo aircraft. The latest aircraft in the wide-body series is the Boeing 747-8.

Type of cargo airlines

MD-10 of FedEx Express, the largest cargo airline FedEx DC10.jpg
MD-10 of FedEx Express, the largest cargo airline

By freight tonne-kilometres flown (millions): [6] [7]

1 Flag of the United States.svg FedEx Express 17,50317,499
2 Flag of Qatar.svg Qatar Airways Cargo 13,02412,713
3 Flag of the United States.svg UPS Airlines 12,84212,695
4 Flag of the United Arab Emirates.svg Emirates SkyCargo 12,05212,459
5 Flag of Hong Kong.svg Cathay Pacific Cargo 10,93011,284
6 Flag of South Korea.svg Korean Air Cargo 7,4127,839
7 Flag of Germany.svg Lufthansa Cargo 7,2267,394
8 Flag of Luxembourg.svg Cargolux 7,1807,322
9 Flag of Turkey.svg Turkish Airlines 7,0297,051
10 Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China Southern Airlines Cargo 6,8256,597

Largest Cargo Carriers

A300 of European Air Transport, a subsidiary of DHL Aviation Dhl.a300b4.oo-dlz.arp.jpg
A300 of European Air Transport, a subsidiary of DHL Aviation

Some more large cargo carriers are: [8]

All-cargo subsidiary

747-8 of Qatar Airways Cargo, the largest all-cargo subsidiary Boeing 747-8F - Qatar Airways Cargo AN5074311.jpg
747-8 of Qatar Airways Cargo, the largest all-cargo subsidiary

The following are freight divisions of passenger airlines operating their own or leased freighter aircraft. Some have shut down or merged with others: [9]

The following are freight divisions without freighter fleets, using passenger aircraft holds or having other cargo airlines fly on their behalf. Some of these previously had freighters:

These carriers operate freighter aircraft but do not have cargo divisions:

These carriers operate freighter aircraft exclusively

See also

Related Research Articles

Cargolux Cargo airline based in Luxembourg

Cargolux, legally Cargolux Airlines International S.A., is a Luxembourgish flag carrier cargo airline with its headquarters and hub at Luxembourg Airport. With a global network, it is one of the largest scheduled all-cargo airlines in Europe. Charter flights and third party maintenance are also operated. Cargolux has 85 offices in over 50 countries as of 2018, and operates a global trucking network to more than 250 destinations.

Frankfurt–Hahn Airport Airport in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Frankfurt–Hahn Airport is an international airport in the municipality of Hahn, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd., also known as ANA (Ē-enu-ē) or Zennikkū (全日空), is the largest airline in Japan by revenues and passenger numbers. Its headquarters are located in Shiodome City Center in the Shiodome area of Minato ward of Tokyo. It operates services to both domestic and international destinations and had more than 20,000 employees as of March 2016. In May 2010, ANA's total passenger traffic was up year-on-year by 7.8%, and its international services grew by 22% to 2.07 million passengers in the first five months of 2010.

The Korean Air Co., Ltd., operating as Korean Air, is the largest airline and flag carrier of South Korea based on fleet size, international destinations and international flights. The airline's global headquarters is located in Seoul, South Korea. The present-day Korean Air was established on March 1, 1969, after the Hanjin Group acquired government-owned Korean Air Lines, which had operated since June 1962. Even though Korean Air is owned by Hanjin Group, KAL is controlled by majority of Hanjin KAL Corporation. The owner family of Hanjin Group is still the airline's largest and controlling, shareholder; Cho Won-tae, its current chairman and CEO, is the third generation of the family to lead the airline. As of 5 June 2020, Hanjin KAL holds 29.27% of Korean Air shares. Korean Air is a founding member of the airline alliance SkyTeam and SkyTeam Cargo.

Asiana Airlines Inc. is a South Korean airline headquartered in Seoul. In 2019, it accounted for 25% of South Korea's international aviation market and 20% of its domestic market. It maintains its international hub at Seoul's Incheon International Airport and its domestic hubs at Gimpo International Airport, also in Seoul, and Gimhae International Airport in Busan.

EVA Airways Corporation, of which "EVA" stands for Evergreen Airways, is a Taiwanese international airline based at Taoyuan International Airport near Taipei, Taiwan, operating passenger and dedicated cargo services to over 40 international destinations in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. EVA Air is largely privately owned and flies a fully international route network. It is a 5-star airline, rated by Skytrax. It is the second largest Taiwanese airline. EVA Air is headquartered in Luzhu, Taoyuan City, Taiwan. The company slogan is "Sharing the World, Flying Together" (分享世界,比翼雙飛).

Boeing 747-400 Wide-body airliner, improved production series of the 747

The Boeing 747-400 is a wide-body airliner produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes, an advanced variant of the initial Boeing 747. The "Advanced Series 300" was announced at the September 1984 Farnborough Airshow, targeting a 10% cost reduction with more efficient engines and 1,000 nmi (1,850 km) more range. Northwest Airlines (NWA) became the first customer with an order for 10 aircraft on October 22, 1985. The first 747-400 was rolled out on January 26, 1988, and made its maiden flight on April 29, 1988. Type certification was received on January 9, 1989, and it entered service with NWA on February 9, 1989.

Qatar Airways Company Q.C.S.C., operating as Qatar Airways, is the state-owned flag carrier of Qatar. Headquartered in the Qatar Airways Tower in Doha, the airline operates a hub-and-spoke network, linking over 150 international destinations across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Oceania from its base at Hamad International Airport, using a fleet of more than 200 aircraft. Qatar Airways Group employs more than 43,000 people. The carrier has been a member of the Oneworld alliance since October 2013, the first Persian Gulf carrier to sign with one of the three major airline alliances.

JSC Uzbekistan Airways, operating as Uzbekistan Airways, is the flag carrier airline of Uzbekistan, headquartered in Tashkent. From its hub at Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport, the airline serves a number of domestic destinations; the company also flies international services to Asia, Europe and North America.

Singapore Airlines Cargo is the unit within Singapore Airlines (SIA) responsible for SIA's air cargo operations. It was incorporated in 1988. SIA Cargo manages the cargo operations of SIA's fleet of freight- and passenger aircraft. Its main office is on the fifth floor of the SATS Airfreight Terminal 5 at Singapore Changi Airport.

Lufthansa Cargo AG is a German cargo airline and a wholly owned subsidiary of Lufthansa. It operates worldwide air freight and logistics services and is headquartered at Frankfurt Airport, the main hub of Lufthansa. Besides operating dedicated cargo planes, the company also has access to cargo capacities of 350 passenger aircraft of the Lufthansa Group.

ASL Airlines Belgium

ASL Airlines Belgium, formerly TNT Airways, is a Belgian cargo airline operating chartered flights mainly to European destinations. It has its head office and hub on the grounds of Liège Airport. The airline used to be a subsidiary of TNT Express but was sold to ASL Airlines Ireland in 2016 and subsequently rebranded.

FedEx Express Cargo airline based in Memphis, Tennessee, United States

Federal Express Corporation, branded as FedEx Express, formerly branded as Federal Express, is a cargo airline based in Memphis, Tennessee, United States. In 2017, it was the world's largest airline in terms of freight tons flown and the world's ninth largest in terms of fleet size. It is the namesake and leading subsidiary of FedEx Corporation, delivering freight and packages to more than 375 destinations across six continents each day.

Combi aircraft

Combi aircraft in commercial aviation are aircraft that can be used to carry either passengers as an airliner, or cargo as a freighter, and may have a partition in the aircraft cabin to allow both uses at the same time in a mixed passenger/freight combination. The name combi comes from the word combination, and is derived from the famous Volkswagen Type 2 van, often called the "Kombi" van, specifically the Kombinationskraftwagen variant, with side windows and removable rear seats, which both a passenger and a cargo vehicle combined.

Cargo aircraft Aircraft configured specifically to transport cargo

A cargo aircraft is a fixed-wing aircraft that is designed or converted for the carriage of cargo rather than passengers. Such aircraft usually do not incorporate passenger amenities and generally feature one or more large doors for loading cargo. Freighters may be operated by civil passenger or cargo airlines, by private individuals or by the armed forces of individual countries.

Châteauroux-Centre "Marcel Dassault" Airport

Châteauroux-Centre "Marcel Dassault" Airport, formerly known as Châteauroux-Déols "Marcel Dassault" Airport, is an airport serving the French city of Châteauroux. The airport is located 5.5 km (3.0 NM) north-northeast of Châteauroux in Déols, a commune of the Indre department in the Centre-Val de Loire region in France. The airport is named after Marcel Dassault and is located on the site of the former Châteauroux-Déols Air Base. It is dedicated to air freight, aeronautical maintenance, pilot training and training of airport firefighters.

Liège Airport

Liège Airport, previously called Liège-Bierset, is an international airport located 5 nautical miles west of the city of Liège in Liège Province, the Wallonia region of Belgium. The airport mainly focuses on air freight. At the end of 2018, it was the 7th biggest cargo airport in Europe and the 22nd biggest in the world.

Southern Air Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, is a global air cargo carrier headquartered in Florence, Kentucky. It is a certified U.S. FAA part 121 cargo carrier and is one of only three U.S.-based cargo airlines operating the 777F. Southern Air is the first company to provide ACMI service for the wide-body Boeing 777F.

A preighter is an aircraft originally intended to carry passengers but which is operated temporarily as a cargo aircraft by loading freight in the passenger cabin. The term is a portmanteau of "passenger" and "freighter" and is attributed to Lufthansa chief executive Carsten Spohr; it came to use as commercial airlines responded to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.


  1. "World Air Transport Statistics" (PDF). IATA. 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-08-15. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  2. Cirium (3 April 2020). "Freight rates on the rise amid slump in passenger flights". Flightglobal.
  3. Stattimes, Media (3 Oct 2020). "How these trends are shaping up the future of logistics". Stattimes. Stattimes. Archived from the original on 2020-11-30. Retrieved 3 Oct 2020.
  4. "Chapman Freeborn charters first AN-225 to South America". Chapman Freeborn Airchartering.
  5. "Argentina's First Satellite Delivered on AN-124 Cargo Charter". Chapman Freeborn Airchartering.
  9. "World's 50 largest air cargo carriers in 2014: FedEx leading the way". Air Cargo News . 15 September 2015.