- Mesa Airlines just announced a five-year cargo-flying contract with DHL Express starting October.
- DHL is sub-leasing two Boeing 737-400 freighters to Mesa with the possibility for more if the regional carrier is successful.
- Passenger airlines were turning to cargo to diversify revenue streams and create incentives for pilots before the pandemic but the pressure is now turned up due to the pandemic’s economic impact.
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More passenger airlines are turning to cargo as a way to diversify revenue streams amid the pandemic as flying boxes is proving to be more lucrative than people.
Mesa Airlines is the latest US airline to announce that it will be flying cargo aircraft come October on behalf of a delivery service alongside its passenger operations. The five-year deal with DHL Express will initially see two Boeing 737 converted freighters sub-leased to Mesa to operate from the logistics giant’s hub near Cincinnati.
It’s a huge shift from Mesa’s normal operation, which consists of flying regional passenger aircraft on behalf of American Airlines and United Airlines from hubs across the country. But one expert says that airlines like Mesa are perfectly suited to these types of cargo operations, where the delivery service provides the aircraft and the operator provides the crew, performs the maintenance, and covers insurance.
Sun Country Airlines shook the industry late last year with its announcement to bring on cargo with 737 freighters as a way to diversify its business but unlike the Minneapolis-based carrier, Mesa will need to prove that it can handle flying cargo and operating the larger aircraft it’s being entrusted with.
In an interview with Business Insider, Mesa Airlines’ CEO Jonathan Ornstein explained why the shift into cargo is the right move and how he was able to get DHL Express to give a small regional airline a shot at the lucrative contract.