Heathrow Cargo

Why is Air Cargo seeing an increase since COVID-19?

According to CLIVE data services, air cargo volume saw a 12% increase in the last week of June compared to the last week of May. Niall van de Wouw, managing director of CLIVE, explains this increase was initially due to the urgent requirement of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by governments in an attempt to contain COVID-19. Despite the international demand for PPE now beginning to diminish, Van de Wouw is confident that air cargo volume will continue to rise month on month.

“Our June analyses seems to suggest the first steps towards a structural market recovery. Despite the decreasing demand for PPE in June, we still see that the volumes increased over May. We are starting to see a more recognisable airfreight market following more logical economic principles and more logical rates.”

There is no denying that aviation has been one of the industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Government restrictions have prohibited entry for travellers causing ticket sales to plummet, reduced schedules and redundancies for airline staff. An increase in air cargo volume is a glimmer of hope in what has been a dark time.

How has COVID-19 impacted Air Cargo Volumes?

A number of sources have submitted their findings on how the global pandemic has affected air freight including; Veritas Global, Seabury and The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA). Alongside this, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have also done their own studies, which are updated and shared on a weekly basis. Despite the sheer number of agencies looking into this there continues to be a lack of reliable data but what does stand out is the following:

• Global air cargo capacity is down 35% from 2019
• 20% of belly cargo continues to fly
• Freighters capacity is showing signs of stabilising

Due to the current restrictions of passenger travel, airports are seeing a sharp decrease in their revenue forcing many to close. Despite full closures to passenger traffic, a share of airport and airside infrastructure must remain open to support air cargo which comes at a cost to a weakening cash supply.

How is TIACA Supporting the Industry?

TIACA believes that it is their permanent role to promote the air cargo industry. During the outbreak of the coronavirus, they have focused their efforts in reminding governments how important the role of the air cargo industry is to the global economy, international trade and in battling the devastating effects of COVID-19. The value of air cargo has been highlighted during the pandemic as without it the transportation of valuable medical, PPE and food supplies would not have been possible. As COVID-19 looks set to continue its impact on the world, so will the demand for medical supplies. It is vital that delivery services are able to keep up with this demand.

How have Cargo Operations Changed Due to Coronavirus?

Changes to cargo operations to mitigate the impact of coronavirus include:

• The use of passenger aircraft
• Expanded use of charter flights
• Changes in flexibility to certain regulations
• Introduction of new standard operating procedures
• Increased protection for staff

The implementation of these new operations and assessment of how effective they are is a time-consuming process and is changing everyday as we learn more about the novel virus. TIACA and other aviation organisations are pushing an initiative where a working document is created for a post COVID-19 recovery path. The main focus of this document is to suggest short, mid and long-term solutions to the issues caused by the pandemic so that the industry as a whole can recover.

What can the Industry do to Prevent this Impact from another Pandemic?

When industries such as aviation rely on governments from all over the world to collaborate and work cohesively, there needs to be a concerted effort to make things consistent. A standard that extends from one end of the world to the other.

It is clear that the implementation of new procedures to prepare ourselves for a future crisis are required; particularly, relating to health and safety in the workplace. Emergency plans will need to be drawn up and implemented to ensure that if another pandemic were to occur that industries would have systems in place to mitigate the effects that were able to destroy everything so quickly and in such a short space of time. This will involve analysis, risk assessments, training sessions and re-writing standard operating procedure. For aviation in particular, more consideration needs to be given to air cargo and how we can keep operations going in the face of a crisis. The air cargo industry has proved invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, more support needs to be given to be able to provide that invaluable service in the future.