On the cargo side, "Asia continues in its position as the manufacturing hub of the world and, as we get further and further into the recovery period, Asia will be one of the drivers," said Boeing spokesman Bob Saling. He added, "As we look ahead, air cargo out of Asia will be a leading indicator" of the recovery.

Saling said the 777 is poised to benefit on the passenger side as well as the cargo side. The airplane FedEx is taking Tuesday is the ninth 777 freighter Boeing has delivered. So far, Boeing has 71 orders for the aircraft, including 15 from FedEx, the only U.S. airline customer. (Some orders are from leasing and finance companies.)

FedEx's non-stop trans-Pacific flights are enabled by the airline's long range and the nature of the cargo, Saling said. Because overnight packages don't create as heavy a load as bulkier cargo, FedEx can get more nautical miles from the airplane -- 5,800 miles compared with a more standard 5,000 miles -- eliminating the need for a fuel stop in Anchorage, Alaska. That allows for a quicker flight. FedEx previously served the route with an MD11, which had to stop for fuel.

On the passenger side, American became the first carrier to say it has re-scheduled China service it was awarded in 2007, but then delayed. "Obviously China is a very large market, a growing market with a growing economy, and this flight (Chicago-Beijing) will complement our existing service (Chicago-Shanghai)," said Virash Vahidi, senior vice president of planning. "When it comes to network planning, there is a strategic value to make sure you have a large presence in the countries and cities most important to your corporate customers.

If you liked this article you might like

Defense Stocks Take Off as North Korea Tensions Rise

Tax Reform Is Coming and That Means Trump Stock Rally Is Ready to Kill It Again

'Trump Stock' Rally Is Back on Track

FireEye Says Iranian Hackers Target Aerospace and Energy Firms

FedEx Makes A Comeback: Cramer's Top Takeaways