Caption: Cargo service from Qatar Airways returns to Pittsburgh International Airport
Qatar Airways Cargo, along with its freight forwarding partners, has resumed flights to Pittsburgh International Airport effective Dec. 4, according to the airport’s Blue Sky News publication. The airline previously operated out of PIT twice-weekly for two years until December 2019 after international trade tensions lowered cargo demand.
“We are glad to return to Pittsburgh and support our partners with their cargo requirements,” Guillaume Halleux, Qatar Airways chief officer cargo, said on the Blue Sky News website. “The business community, freight forwarders and shippers in Pennsylvania also benefit from direct access to our global network via Doha. The mini freighters and passenger freighters introduced during the pandemic demonstrate our agility and support in ensuring the continuity of global trade.”
The once-weekly flight will last through the next six months and marks the latest cargo deal to land at the airport following the September announcement of the twice-weekly Cathay Pacific Airways temporary cargo flights to PIT.
Viknesh Harichandra, executive vice president of Apex Logistics International, which is a freight forwarder and partner of the new flights, noted that the nation’s bigger airports have become prone to delays that have only been heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic. He said that cargo shipments at these airports can take up to two days to be picked up by others along the supply chain and that Pittsburgh poses a unique opportunity to address these concerns.
“With Pittsburgh, we can get things turned around quickly and, within a few hours of a flight’s arrival, it clears customs and it’s on its way,” Harichandra told Blue Sky News. “If we can get these trucks to move quickly — pick up the freight and move it — that makes a lot of sense saving time and money in the long term.”
To complete the flights, Qatar will use modified Boeing 777-300ER planes that have had their passenger compartment converted to allow for more cargo storage. It’s a similar tactic that Cathay Pacific and other airlines have taken amid drastically reduced passenger demand amid the pandemic.
Cargo operations have remained a strong point at PIT throughout the pandemic, faring much better than the airport’s passenger traffic this year. Year-over-year, cargo fell by 4% in October, according to the latest figures from the Allegheny County Airport Authority, which manages Pittsburgh’s two airports. In comparison, year-to-date passenger figures were down 61%, reaching 3.1 million passengers so far in 2020 as opposed to the 8.1 million who flew through PIT over the same time last year.