How coronavirus has turned the airfreight market on its head

One of the strangest sights of the coronavirus crisis has been airliners jetting into near-deserted airports, their cabins brimming with cardboard boxes secured with netting, either atop seats or stacked on the floor of a stripped out interior. While lockdowns and travel restrictions have starved the skies of passengers, air cargo demand – particularly for personal protective equipment (PPE) manufactured in Asia and desperately needed in Europe and North America – has been racing ahead of capacity.

That is not because more goods are moving around the world. In fact, the global economic slowdown prompted by the pandemic saw air freight volume plunge by almost 28% year on year in April, according to IATA. About half of all air freight normally travels as belly cargo on passenger aircraft, and the sharp reduction in flights has seen forwarders scrambling to transport urgent consignments – not just of PPE and other medical items, but also goods crucial to just-in-time global supply chains. The collapse of airline networks means there simply are not enough aircraft to shift the items consumers, businesses and governments need.

For many airlines, with their cash reserves dwindling from a lack of passenger revenue, freight has been a godsend. Emirates chief executive Tim Clark admitted earlier this month that the critical need for cargo capacity was helping prevent a financial disaster for the Dubai-based airline after it halted all but a handful of its passenger flights. “We’ve converted ourselves to a mini UPS,” he says, with 85 of Emirates’ Boeing 777-300ERs operating as stand-in freighters, in addition to its 11 777Fs.

Read more atour source page Aircargo News.



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