Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

United Airlines plans to launch an all-cargo service between the USA and Asia, using four McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 freighters. Approval is being sought for six flights a week in both directions between Tokyo, Osaka, Taipei and Manila and New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Services are scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter. United expects a quick approval as rights to operate the services were acquired from Pan American World Airways in 1986, but never used. The airline now carries cargo between the USA and Asia in the belly holds of passenger aircraft, but says it is turning away business in both directions.

The DC-10 freighters will either be leased or converted from passenger aircraft now in service with United. The airline already operates four passenger DC-10-30s which were converted from freighters. United's Worldwide Cargo division says that it has no plans presently to expand its all-cargo service beyond Asia.

Northwest Airlines is the only other US carrier to operate both passenger and cargo aircraft, flying eight Boeing 747 freighters between the USA and Asia. Japan Airlines and Nippon Cargo Airlines also operate all-freight services across the Pacific, as do FedEx and UPS.

United's move comes as the USA and Japan have agreed a new cargo bilateral which will allow additional flights by both US and Japanese carriers. UPS, which has announced plans for a $400 million hub in Taipei, will get 12 additional weekly flights to Asia via Kansai.

United World Cargo vice-president James Hartigan says the DC-10s will add only about 3% more capacity to a market that is growing faster than 7% a year.

Source: Flight International