In its second quarter financial results, leading North American carrier United Airlines recorded the highest second quarter revenue in the company history, delivering a profitable quarter for the first time since COVID-19 began, all this despite record-high fuel prices.
In the second quarter, through a combination of cargo-only and passenger flights, United transported around 275 million pounds of freight, including COVID-19 vaccines and other essential supplies, which included nearly 33 million pounds of vital shipments, such as medical kits, personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment.
Marco Vezjak, cargo sales director for North America at United Airlines, gives us a glimpse of the carrier’s plans, with comments on current macroeconomic trends affecting US and global aviation.
Describe to us your fleet and network schedule. How does this meet your client’s requirements and your long-term plans?
Our international network has grown significantly over the last few months, strongly driven by high passenger demand, which is a very important development coming out of the pandemic. Our Cargo team continues to be involved in discussing new international routes and deciding which aircraft types are the best fit for both passenger and cargo demand. This setup enables us to make the right network and fleet decisions to best serve our passengers and cargo customers.
We largely increased our transatlantic footprint in our summer flight schedule, which has greatly benefited our customers with more solutions and options to choose from on this critical trade lane. Looking ahead, we will be focused on growing our transpacific flight network, with a focus on Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Japan. We are also looking forward to increasing our flight activity in other key markets in the Far East, with COVID restrictions and regulations determining the timing of our return.
How is the company looking to achieve growth in the near term?
Aside from continuing to build the best flight network, the biggest driver behind growth is our strong focus on our customers. We listen to our customer’s needs and ideas and try to introduce solutions fast, because the “speed to market” is an essential ingredient for success in air cargo. We continue to be creative with finding innovative concepts and building long-term programs and partnerships. We also continue to invest in our specialty product services and infrastructure. Being a trusted carrier partner to transport our customer’s most valuable and (time) sensitive shipments allows us to continue to grow in this critical sector.
What’s your take on the industry’s individual initiatives on sustainability? Is it sustainable?
It’s great to see the industry taking strides in the right direction, and we are keen to find many ways to take action to reduce our carbon footprint. Our overall goal is to partner with more freight forwarders to join our first-of-its-kind Eco-Skies Alliance program to work across industries and find other innovative paths towards decarbonization. In conjunction with SAF, United Cargo has also started looking at other sustainable opportunities such as biodegradable pallet wraps and evaluating carbon emissions associated with its trucking network. By creating a framework for procuring low-carbon goods and services, United Cargo continues to be the leader in eco-conscious culture-building within the industry.
How long do you expect flight cancellations to continue, and how do you plan for peak?
As always, we will do our best to serve our customers in any way possible, and we will take more actions to further improve throughout our winter schedule. We foresee strong demand throughout the end of the year and likely beyond. There are a lot of different factors that can impact the situation, but we are ready to provide solutions to our customers.
Which issues do you foresee will bring headwinds for air cargo in the near term?
Geopolitical situations and continued COVID restrictions in some markets present current challenges and future uncertainties. As always, we continue to closely monitor the situation and to prepare strategies in order to quickly adopt and adjust to new developments.
How prepared is the airline to face ongoing challenges?
We overcome challenges by working together. On one side, we strongly believe that we have the best air cargo team in the industry, and together we have accomplished more than we could have dreamed of. The team’s passion, dedication, and willingness to compete and succeed is inspiring and keeps us motivated.
On the other side, we have developed very strong partnerships with our customers and together we feel ready to tackle any challenges along the way. We have great confidence in the way we collaborate with our partners, which fosters trust and creates momentum between everyone involved. Looking back at the last two and a half years, we have faced countless challenges, yet were able to not only tackle them, but come out stronger on the other side.