DHL expands its trans-Pacific fleet

DHL/Polar 747-400F Photo: Wikimedia/Maarten Visser

DHL/Polar 747-400F Photo: Wikimedia/Maarten Visser

It doesn’t seem that long ago that Deutsche Post-DHL was at the absolute nadir of its involvement in the US. In an attempt to enter the US domestic express market and compete directly with UPS and FedEx, DHL bought Airborne Express and tried to expand this small, moderately successful low-cost alternative to the big two into a complete service that would match FedEx and UPS at every level. To create a big three, if you like.

A few years and ten billion dollars in losses later, the German express and logistics giant admitted defeat and ended its participation in the US Domestic market. Its parting words, “We will continue to offer international service to our US customers,” were met with a fair amount of skepticism. Surely customers would prefer to move to FedEx or UPS, that could offer the full package of domestic and international services?

Well, it turns out that on this one, the skeptics were dead wrong. In the years since it left the US domestic market, DHL Express has expanded its US international business at an enviable pace. A considerable portion of that business moves to and from Asia, and to ensure adequate lift, DHL bought a 49% share of Polar Air Cargo, the scheduled service arm of Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings. The deal included a 20-year ACMI agreement for six 747-400Fs that would connect Asia with DHL’s hub in Cincinnatti.

With DHL’s increasing success in the US-international market came the need for more trans-Pacific lift, and the six-unit 747-400F DHL/Polar fleet gradually grew to the point that as of yesterday, it consisted of five 747-400Fs and four 747-8Fs.

But that was yesterday. Today comes the news that yet another 747-400 freighter has been added, bringing the total to six 747-400Fs and four 747-8Fs.

And the trans-Pacific lift provide through the Polar joint venture is not the only area of cooperation between Atlas and DHL, as Atlas also operates two 767-300Fs in Asia and five 767-200Fs in the US on a CMI basis for DHL.

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