Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Airfreight Supply Lines Must Not be Compromised as Governments Urged to Act Now

Meanwhile Air Cargo Carriers Link Up in the Fight Against the Coronavirus
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – When facing a crisis like Covid-19, behind the obvious medical urgency always comes the line of logisticians needed to keep the fight on track. Whether military, or as now, civilian, the authorities turn to the transport experts for advice, and they would do well to heed the latest opinions of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and its members.

Before we take a look at some of the sterling work being undertaken by the world’s air cargo carriers, IATA has reiterated that, with almost the entire world-wide passenger aircraft fleet grounded, the capacity for air cargo shipments has been almost halved. Airlines are scrambling to meet the gap between cargo demand and available lift by all means possible, including re-introducing freighter services and using passenger aircraft for cargo operations. To support these efforts, IATA says governments need to remove key obstacles by:

  • Introducing fast track procedures for overflight and landing permits for cargo operations, particularly in key manufacturing hubs in Asia -- China, Korea and Japan -- in response to the increased number of cargo charters replacing withdrawn passenger operations
  • Exempting flight crew members who do not interact with the public from 14-day quarantine requirements to ensure cargo supply chains are maintained
  • Supporting temporary traffic rights for cargo operations where restrictions may apply
  • Removing economic impediments, such as overflight charges, parking fees, and slot restrictions to support air cargo operations during these unprecedented times
  • Removing operating hour curfews for cargo flights to facilitate the most flexible global air cargo network operations

IATA points out that it is supporting the view taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) which has been reiterating the importance of the air cargo industry in the fight to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, with Paul Molinaro, Chief, Operations Support and Logistics, WHO, saying:

“Around the world the frontline health workers who fight against Covid- 19 need to be continuously supplied with necessary medical equipment and protective material. It is our collective duty to keep these supply lines open by continuing air cargo operations. The scale-down of air passenger flow is seriously hurting our scheduled freight operations. We call on airline companies and governments to join the global effort to ensure dedicated freight capacity continues to operate on previously high volume passenger routes that are now closed down.”

And indeed the air carriers are doing whatever they can to support the fight with a plethora of them acting without having to be asked. Some examples include:

  • Delta, American and United have started cargo-only flights, using passenger aircraft domestically and internationally to bolster depressed global airfreight capacity
  • Air Canada, Aeromexico, Austrian, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Iberia, Korean, LATAM Lufthansa, Qantas, Scoot, Swiss and many other carriers have made some passenger aircraft in their fleets available for chartered cargo operations
  • Ethiopian Airlines is playing a key role in transporting Covid-19 medical equipment through its hub to Africa’s 54 nations, including recently transporting equipment donated by the Jack Ma Foundation
  • Croatian Airlines has operated a charter flight from Abu Dhabi to Zagreb delivering critical medical equipment
  • China Eastern delivered a significant amount of medical supplies to support doctors in Italy
  • Austrian used 2 passenger B777 aircraft to fly medical equipment from China to Austria
  • Airlink, a nonprofit organization working with aviation and logistics partners to transport relief workers and emergency supplies have transported 16,127 lbs, of medical supplies and food aid to help the Covid-19 relief effort
  • FedEx Express has helped the US government transport Covid-19 test specimens from more than 50 remote drive-through testing centres at major retailers across 12 states
  • The UPS Foundation has expanded its relief response to Coronavirus, delivering urgent medical supplies, food and housing, and financial assistance to aid in recovery efforts
  • Airbus has transported 2 million face masks from China to Europe on a test A330-800 aircraft, the majority will be donated to Spain & France

So, as ever the logistics sector is acting to help remedy a situation where people are clearly in need, and as Glyn Hughes, IATA Global Head of Air Cargo, puts it:

“Air cargo is on the front line, not only fighting Covid-19 but ensuring that global supply chains are maintained for the most time-sensitive materials including food and other products purchased online in support of quarantine and social distancing policies implemented by states.

”But we can only continue to do this if we work together with the support of governments. Keeping supply lines open also supports jobs in local economies for example producers of perishables in Africa and Latin America. We are stronger together.”

Photo: Ethiopian, one of the airlines helping in the fight against the virus.