Lufthansa Cargo’s first Boeing 777 landed in Atlanta in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, bringing with it the potential for more and larger cargo.
Christened “Good Day USA” before its departure from Frankfurt, Germany, the $270 million plane is fresh off the Boeing assembly line and is the first of five to be delivered to supplement the cargo unit’s aging fleet of 18 MD-11s.
Not only does the 777 have 20 percent more space than the MD-11, it also has a larger opening that can accommodate bigger items, said Carl Unger, director of cargo for Lufthansa’s southern U.S. region.
That means Lufthansa’s Atlanta operation will no longer have to turn away aircraft engines, oil and gas equipment and other large items as it has in the past, Mr. Unger told Global Atlanta.
The plane won’t bring new jobs immediately, but the hope is that Lufthansa might later have to add to its 80-person team in Atlanta, Mr. Unger said.
The 777 will normally run on a “turnaround” route from Frankfurt to Atlanta and back, connecting cargo from the Southeast with Lufthansa’s global hub in Germany.
Air freight is used when companies need speed or when their products can’t withstand a three-week ocean voyage.
The South’s broad industrial base means Lufthansa handles a diversity of shipments. Fully assembled cars, live chicks from North Georgia poultry farms and temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals are just a few examples.
“Cargo can be as small as an envelop to as big as a 12- or a 15-ton shipment as long as it can fit in the door,” Mr. Unger said.
He added that the capacity upgrade comes amid a tough environment for air cargo. Lufthansa Cargo surged back from the 2009 recession by posting its biggest operating profit ever in 2010, but things have been lukewarm since growth has slowed in Asian markets. Many airlines are putting more capacity on trans-Atlantic routes, Mr. Unger said.
“It’s a very competitive environment out there, and it’s a challenge every year,” he said.
The Good Day USA stopped at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport before heading to Atlanta, commemorating the airline’s first Boeing 747-200 flight to the U.S. 41 years ago.
It was scheduled to arrive at 1 a.m. and was welcomed with a water-cannon salute.