Lacking passengers, regional airline Mesa Air to start flying DHL cargo

Key Points
  • Mesa Air will fly Boeing 737 freighters for DHL as passenger air travel remains weak.
  • The regional airline has contracts with United and American for shorter routes.
  • Other airlines have also turned to cargo as the coronavirus pandemic drove down passenger travel.
A pilot steps down from a newly launched DHL Boeing 737-200 freighter din Kuala Lumpur.
Jimin Lai | AFP | Getty Images

Airlines are increasingly turning to air cargo as many passengers opt to forgo flights because of the coronavirus pandemic

Mesa Air Group, a regional carrier that flies short routes for American and United on Monday said it will start flying packages for Deutsche Post's DHL Express. 

Phoenix-based Mesa said that it has a five-year agreement to fly for the package delivery company and that service will start in October. The regional airline is planning to add Boeing 737 freighters, leased from DHL, and fly them from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Other carriers have taken similar steps as the pandemic continues to keep a lid on air travel demand, pushing passenger airlines to their first losses in years. Just more than 8 million people passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at U.S. airports in the first 12 days of July, down nearly 73% from the same period a year ago, federal data shows.

Private equity backed Sun Country, a leisure airline based in Minneapolis, struck a deal to fly packages for Amazon. Meanwhile, larger airlines like American, United and Delta, which used to fly cargo in the bellies of their passenger planes have started operating cargo-only flights after the virus and subsequent travel restrictions curbed much of their international networks.

Airlines will detail how much revenue these initiatives are generating when they start reporting earnings this month. Delta is scheduled to post first-quarter results before the market opens on Tuesday.