a large white airplane on a runway

The evolution of any successful business often involves new iterations and pivots. As the airline industry fights for for survival, it’s certainly no exception. For Cathay Pacific, with Hong Kong officially closed to virtually all outside visitors until 2021 at the earliest, that means changing things up in a big way. Cathay’s latest venture involves a limited time route addition… to Pittsburgh, but not technically from Hong Kong.

Ah, the delights of Pittsburgh.

All jokes aside, Pittsburgh is regularly voted America’s most livable cities as an emerging hub for tech, healthcare, and a new wave of manufacturing. As is usually the case with increasingly gentrified areas, fantastic dining, galleries and hotels are now everywhere in this little corner of Pennsylvania.

But even then, Pittsburgh isn’t exactly the first place people look to when they think of flights from Asia.

a large white airplane on a runway

That thinking usually goes to New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, or maybe Seattle or Chicago. Nonetheless, for 12 weeks, Cathay Pacific will operate flight CX8800, an all cargo flight operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, which pre-pandemic was Cathay’s passenger workhorse.

The unique flight will depart Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, make a quick technical stop in Hong Kong and then roar down the runway fully laden bound for Pittsburgh, landing every Monday and Thursday until November 26th, 2020.

The plane, which typically seats circa 275 passengers has been stripped of premium and economy to carry a massive 35-40 tonne load of everything from luxury goods to essential items, dropping them right on the doorstep between the Eastern seaboard and the Midwest.

Cargo has become an essential pivot for airlines, as the pandemic creates higher shipping costs. Many airlines quietly note that the planes are making money just with the loads below, though not nearly as much as having a deck full of passengers as well.

a large white airplane flying over a city

Pittsburgh Airport is looking to expand its role in global cargo, and Cathay Pacific is among the first major airlines and cargo operations to take the route up. The covid-19 pandemic has shifted the world of travel immensely, with cargo friendly airports such as Anchorage, Alaska overtaking the likes of New York JFK and LaGuardia combined, depending on the day.

Who knows if Cathay Pacific will ever launch an official passenger service to Pittsburgh, but for now, Pittsburgh spotters and locals can enjoy the gorgeous jade green tail as it comes in to land along the Allegheny Mountains. The new 12 week Cathay cargo run is fascinating look at what airlines are doing to pay pilots, survive and keep planes active until passenger traffic recovers.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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