Qatar Airways Cargo and its freight forwarding partners resume flights to Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) from 4 December.
Connecting PIT with Bangladesh (DAC), the carrier will be conducting weekly flights into PIT for the next six months utilising B777-300ER ‘preighters’ – modified passenger aircraft temporarily converted into freighters. The move follows the announcement in September of a twice-weekly Cathay Pacific Cargo ‘preighter’ service lasting for three months.
“We are glad to return to Pittsburgh and support our partners with their cargo requirements,” says Guillaume Halleux, chief officer cargo at Qatar Airways in an interview with PIT’s Blue Sky News publication.
“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,” Halleux adds.
Highlighting PIT’s quick efficiency advantage, Viknesh Harichandra, executive VP of Apex Logistics International, Qatar’s forwarding partner on the service, says larger airports, including Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, Atlanta and New York’s JFK, can take two days to move cargo.
“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,” he says. “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.”
Apex has handled more than 900 cargo charters this year alone and is looking to further incorporate PIT in its plans, Harichandra adds.
Unique Logistics International partnered with Cathay Pacific as the freight forwarder on that flight and is also a partner on this Qatar Airways Cargo flight with Bangladesh’s Apex Logistics International and Expo Group, the PIT article notes.
Qatar served PIT for two years with twice-weekly B777 freighters until suspending operations in December 2019, as international trade tensions weakened global cargo demand. As the effects of the pandemic spread worldwide, demand for cargo returned, offering some small hope for the commercial airline sector.
“Unique is proud to work with Apex Logistics in conjunction with Expo Group, Bangladesh and Qatar Airways Cargo to continue our partnership with Pittsburgh International,” says Marc Schlossberg, executive vice president of Unique Logistics. “Qatar’s coverage from the Indian subcontinent is second to none and their new mini freighters provide a unique option during these difficult times with capacity scarce.”
All-freighter service continues to grow and is a key part of PIT’s business plan, which was kickstarted by the arrival of Qatar Airways Cargo three years ago, adds Vince Gastgeb, PIT VP of Government and Corporate Affairs.
“The initial Qatar Airways Cargo flights illustrated to the cargo and business community that service can work and that Pittsburgh is a cargo solution to the worldwide freight ecosystem,” Gastgeb says. “Along with the service goes economic generation and jobs to a lot of regional companies at time when it is greatly needed.”
Last fall, the US Department of Transportation awarded PIT a USD 18.69 million BUILD grant to support the construction of a 6,968 sqm cargo processing facility and an adjacent surface parking lot to expand air cargo operations.
PIT says the new facility, “will allow for larger aircraft, new cargo destinations on all-freighter aircraft, or additional parking for integrator carriers like FedEx or UPS that require sorting facilities and high volumes of truck access.”
Over the past several months, the airport has welcomed five FEMA charter flights operated by National Airlines, carrying critical medical supplies from South Korea. And as part of its cargo focus, PIT officials signed an agreement with Ted Stevens Anchorage International this summer to collaborate in better streamlining the global air cargo supply chain.