US approves Asia-Pacific route for DHL contract airline

A big white jet touches down on the runway, with smoke coming from wheels.

Air Transport International has begun flying a Boeing 767-300 converted freighter for DHL Express from Hong Kong to Sydney via Guam to support delivery of general express freight and relief supplies for the COVID-19 response in Australia.

Separately, sister airline ABX Air deployed a 767 cargo plane to support DHL’s air network between Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany via DHL’s U.K. hub at East Midlands Airport, parent company Air Transport Services Group (NASDAQ: ATSG) announced Monday evening.

ATSG’s leasing arm is providing the aircraft to DHL (DPW: DIX), which hired the two aircraft subsidiaries to operate them on its behalf. Overall, Wilmington, Ohio-based ATSG has 16 of the Boeing freighters hauling DHL Express shipments around the world.

The U.S. Department of Transportation in late June granted Air Transport International a license to operate a scheduled all-cargo route from Hong Kong to Guam for two years.

The all-cargo carrier is a large provider of dedicated contract carriage and cargo charters to airlines, logistics providers and governments. The DOT authority allows Air Transport International to provide freighter service up to four times per week.

Air Transport International sought an exemption from the statutory requirement for a permanent certificate of operating authority for the Hong Kong-Guam route. Air service to Hong Kong is governed by a 1997 bilateral aviation agreement. ATI currently has permission to serve Australia by virtue of its blanket certificate under the U.S.-Australia Open Skies agreement. 

The airline will not carry commercial cargo from Sydney to Hong Kong because there are no Fifth Freedom rights involved, which are necessary for commercial operations between two foreign countries on a flight that either originates in, or is destined for, the carrier’s home country.

ATSG’s business has taken off with the demand for freighters during the coronavirus pandemic, and the company has been deploying more converted 767 passenger planes to help customers in the growing e-commerce sector. The 767 is a medium-size widebody aircraft suited for e-commerce and regional express operations. Several weeks ago, Amazon said it would lease a dozen 767-300 converted freighters from ATSG and then hire the company to fly the planes as part of its massive delivery network.

DHL Express has been adding more air capacity to its network to meet growth in e-commerce traffic since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as more people stay at home to avoid spreading the disease.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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