Cargo airline

Cargo airlines (or airfreight carriers, and derivatives of these names) are airlines mainly dedicated to the transport of cargo by air. Some cargo airlines are divisions or subsidiaries of larger passenger airlines.


Air transport is a component of many international logistics networks, managing and controlling the flow of goods, energy, information and other resources like products, services, and people, from the source of production to the marketplace. Logistics involves the geographical repositioning of raw materials, work in process, and finished inventories.[1]

Aircraft used

Larger cargo airlines tend to use new or recently built aircraft to carry their freight. However, many still utilize older aircraft, including those no longer suited for passenger service, like the Boeing 707, Boeing 727, Douglas DC-8, McDonnell Douglas DC-10, McDonnell Douglas MD-11, Airbus A300, and the Ilyushin Il-76. Examples of the 60-year-old Douglas DC-3 are still flying around the world carrying cargo (as well as passengers). Short range turboprop airliners such as the Antonov An-12, Antonov An-26, Fokker Friendship, and British Aerospace ATP are being modified to accept standard air freight pallets to extend their working lives. This normally involves the replacement of glazed windows with opaque panels, the strengthening of the cabin floor and insertion of a broad top-hinged door in one side of the fuselage.

Antonov An-225 Mriya and Antonov An-124 are the world's largest aircraft, used for transporting large shipments and oversized cargos.[2][3]

Usage of large military airplanes for commercial purposes, pioneered by Ukraine's Antonov Airlines in the 1990s, has allowed new types of cargo in aerial transportation.

In the past, some cargo airlines would carry a few passengers from time to time on flights, and UPS Airlines once unsuccessfully tried a passenger charter airline division.

The Boeing 747 is also widely used as a cargo aircraft. The latest aircraft in the wide-body series is the Boeing 747-8.

Top 10 cargo airlines

By freight tonne-kilometres flown (millions):[4]

1 FedEx Express16,020
2 Emirates SkyCargo11,240
3 UPS Airlines10,936
4 Cathay Pacific Cargo9,464
5 Korean Air Cargo8,079
6 Lufthansa Cargo7,054
7 Singapore Airlines Cargo6,019
8 Qatar Airways Cargo5,997
9 Cargolux5,753
10 China Airlines Cargo5,266


Some of the largest all-cargo carriers are:[5]

All-cargo subsidiary

The following are freight divisions of passenger airlines operating their own or leased freighter aircraft. Some have shut down or merged with others:[5]

The following are freight divisions without freighter fleets, using passenger aircraft holds or having other cargo airlines fly on their behalf. Some of these previously had freighters:

These carriers operate freighter aircraft but do not have cargo divisions:

These carriers operate freighter aircraft exclusively

See also


  1. Bartsch, Butsri (24 May 2013). "Air freight - it could not be faster!". BB Handel. Archived from the original on 2013-06-07. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  2. "Chapman Freeborn charters first AN-225 to South America". Chapman Freeborn Airchartering.
  3. "Argentina's First Satellite Delivered on AN-124 Cargo Charter". Chapman Freeborn Airchartering.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-12-15. Retrieved 2012-12-15.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. "World's 50 largest air cargo carriers in 2014: FedEx leading the way". Air Cargo News. 15 September 2015. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
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