American Airlines executive talks about high-flying cargo to Cuba
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
Jim Butler, president of American Airlines cargo, is based at the
airline’s Fort Worth, Texas, headquarters, but he visits Miami four to
six times a year to keep track of the burgeoning cargo operation.
“I probably spend more time in Miami than any other city in our system,”
Butler said. And it’s a big system: American provides 100 million pounds
plus of weekly cargo lift to cities in the United States, Europe, Asia,
Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America.
Butler recently sat down with the Miami Herald to discuss the world
cargo situation, the Miami hub, American’s growing business transporting
pharmaceuticals and the airline’s plans to launch commercial service to
Cuba on Sept. 7. Passengers and their luggage will be making those first
flights to Cuba, but cargo service won’t begin until later.
Q. Many people in Miami are eagerly awaiting the resumption of
commercial air service to Cuba. How does cargo fit into this?
A. We’re very excited to start cargo service to Cuba. We have a long
record of serving Cuba from a passenger perspective with more than 1,200
flights last year, but this will be our first foray from a cargo
perspective. [American has leased its planes to charter companies flying
It won’t be Day One [American plans to launch its first regularly
scheduled flight to Cuba on Sept. 7], but as soon as we’re capable of
doing so, we’re going to start offering cargo services on some, if not
all our flights, to Cuba. There’s the opportunity to fly to Cuba and
then there are all the various embargo restrictions that will still
apply but that will be relaxed over time. We don’t know exactly how this
will play out. But when we begin, we expect to be able to quickly ship
humanitarian cargoes such as pharmaceuticals and food.
Q. Food — lots of frozen chicken — is one of the things now sent to Cuba
by ship. Do you think some of that ship traffic will shift to air?
A. We will be flying narrow-body aircraft to Cuba so our capacity will
be limited. I wouldn’t expect to see a huge shift to air because
obviously the transit time by ship isn’t incredibly long, but I think
there will be primarily express and pharmaceutical opportunities. When
we go into a new market, usually there is industry data to pull and see
what exists. Obviously with Cuba being brand-new to this type of
operation, we are doing our research to figure out what the market will
be in the future. We’re looking to adding 12 flights a day from Miami to
Cuba and 13 total. [AA also will have a daily flight from Charlotte.]
Q. When passenger service begins, American will be transporting
passengers’ luggage. Do you have a time frame when you expect other
shippers to be able to send goods?
A. No, I don’t think so. We will start as soon as we can in partnerships
with the various governments, and as soon as we know we can do it the
right way. Obviously it will be helpful as well to see how much baggage
we get on the airplane [when passenger service begins]. We’re learning
as we go. But we will start cargo the second we can.
Source: American Airlines executive talks about high-flying cargo to
Cuba | In Cuba Today – www.incubatoday.com/news/article93898242.html