Picture of Gerard Arpey
We’d love to hear what you
think about our airline and
our employees.
Please write to us at

Want to sign up for free e-mail
notification of Gerard Arpey's column
or to see past columns? Click here!

In the fall of 1910, a Columbus, Ohio, ?businessman made a proposition to the Wright brothers and subsequently made history as the world’s first air-cargo customer. His idea: Fly 200 pounds of silk from the legendary aviators’ ?Huffman Prairie testing grounds in Dayton, Ohio, to Columbus. The Wrights accepted the challenge and charged the man the princely sum of $5,000 (the equivalent of more than $100,000 today). While paying that much money to move some silk a relatively short distance seemed like folly to some, the enterprising merchant proved his skeptics wrong. He made his money back, and then some, by selling tiny pieces of the silk attached to postcards commemorating the first cargo ever delivered via airplane.

Air cargo may have been a novelty in 1910, but as everyone knows, it has played — and continues to play — a transformational role in the global economy and in our daily lives. At American Airlines, our history carrying cargo goes back to the mail-only flights (often piloted by Charles Lindbergh) we began in 1926. Over the years, we have introduced a number of industry innovations, including the first scheduled air-cargo service in the world, the first coast-to-coast all-cargo flight, the first conveyors for loading air freight, the first air-freight terminals and the first refrigerated cargo containers.

Today, American Airlines Cargo provides daily scheduled cargo delivery to more than 240 cities in 50 countries around the world. Our customers include some of the largest shippers in the world, such as the United States Postal Service. Airfreight forwarders, logistics providers and a myriad of other businesses rely on us to keep their operations humming and their customers happy. In some cases, we are, in effect, the glue holding an entire manufacturing process together.

Last year alone, we carried over 800 million pounds of cargo in the bellies of our aircraft. But rather than big numbers, let’s focus on some of the real-life scenarios the air-cargo business makes possible, starting with the classic night on the town: dinner and a movie. Perishable commodities represent about one-third of what we carry. So when vegetables that are out of season where you live or fish that were recently swimming in waters thousands of miles away show up on your favorite restaurant’s menu, there’s a chance we helped make that happen. We may also have had a supporting role in your post-dinner movie. During film production, we often transport daily footage from the shooting location to the studio, and we help distribute the final product to theaters all over the world. By the way, if you want to impress your spouse or date for the evening with flowers, we have you covered there as well, since we carry millions of pounds of fresh flowers each year, including 2 million pounds during Valentine’s season alone.

The above scenarios illustrate how integral air cargo has become to our daily lives. But of course, people rely on us for a lot more than a night on the town. With that in mind, we offer a full range of precision-shipping products perfect for those crucial legal documents that must get to a client in another city by the close of business or for the cooler containing human organs that must reach the other side of the country in time to save a life. We handle, on average, about 10 human-organ shipments for transplant a week.

Faithful “Vantage Point” readers know that I am a proud evangelist when it comes to the benefits of air travel, both to individuals and to the world at large. But I’m equally proud of the impact we have on the lives of millions of people who may never set foot on a plane and who, in all likelihood, are unaware of the supporting role we play in their lives.

I want to thank you for letting us play a role in your life today. If you would like to learn more about our cargo capabilities, please visit www.aacargo.com. Have a great trip!

Signatureof Gerard Arpey
Gerard J. Arpey
American Airlines