Air freighters have vital role in global fight against Covid-19

‘Keeping cargo flowing will save lives', says IATA's boss, as air freight operators are called upon to help support governments in their anti-virus efforts
Air cargo, Air freight, Iata

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The global air cargo market has been slow over the last couple of years due in part to international trade wars and has been criticised for failing to keep up with airlines and modern digital trends.

But air freight operators have now found themselves being scrambled by governments to make up the shortfall in cargo capacity caused by the grounding of thousands of airliners.

Air freight volumes last year had their weakest performance since the global financial crisis in 2009, when the market contracted by nearly 10%, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The air cargo market is now being asked to ramp up operations and support governments in their efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Since the crisis began, air cargo has been vital in delivering much-needed medicines and medical equipment and in keeping global supply chains functioning.

Air cargo is proving instrumental in transporting food and other products purchased online in support of quarantine and social distancing policies implanted by states, according to IATA.

The dramatic travel restrictions and collapse of passenger demand have severely limited cargo capacity and IATA has called on governments to take “urgent measures” to ensure that air cargo will be available to support the global fight against COVID-19.

“Over 185,000 passenger flights have been cancelled since the end of January in response to government travel restrictions,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s CEO.

“With this, vital cargo capacity has disappeared when it is most urgently needed in the fight against COVID-19. The world’s fleet of freighter aircraft has been mobilised to make up this capacity shortfall. Governments must take urgent measures to ensure that vital supply lines remain open, efficient and effective.”

IATA recommends that governments exclude air cargo operations from any virus-related travel restrictions and exempt air cargo crew members, who do not interact with the public, from 14-day quarantine requirements.

It has also suggested that governments support temporary traffic rights for cargo operations where restrictions may apply and remove economic impediments, such as overfly charges, parking fees, and slot restrictions to support air cargo operations during these unprecedented times    

“Air cargo carriers are working closely with governments and health organisations around the world to safeguard public health while also keeping the global economy moving. Today, as we fight a global health war against COVID-19, governments must take urgent action to facilitate air cargo. Keeping cargo flowing will save lives,” said de Juniac. 

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