The International Air Transport Association (Iata), the global representative body of the air transport industry, has appealed to governments around the world to facilitate air cargo operations. Air cargo charter flights, which are replacing suspended passenger operations, are still facing bureaucratic obstacles, the association warned.
“Air cargo is a vital partner in the flight against Covid-19. But we are still seeing examples of cargo flights filled with life-saving medical supplies and equipment grounded due to cumbersome and bureaucratic processes to secure slots and operating permits,” warned Iata director general and CEO Alexandre de Juniac. “These delays are endangering lives. All governments need to step up to keep global supply chains open.”
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, almost all of the world’s passenger aeroplane fleet has been parked on the ground. Normally, passenger airliners carry almost 50% of global air freight. This has created a gap between demand and supply. Operators are urgently filling this gap by re-instituting freighter aircraft services and using passenger aircraft to transport only cargo.
“Around the world the frontline health workers who fight against Covid-19 need to be continuously supplied with necessary medical equipment and protective material,” highlighted World Health Organisation Operations Support and Logistics Chief Paul Molinaro. “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.”
Governments need to do their part. They have to cut the red tape currently hampering these air cargo operations. Steps that needed to be taken included exempting cargo flight crews, who do not encounter the public, from 14-day quarantine regulations. Cargo overflight and landing permits should be fast-tracked, especially in the crucial East Asian manufacturing centres (China, Japan and South Korea).
Also, temporary traffic rights for air freight operations should be granted, in cases where restrictions normally apply. And economic obstacles to air cargo operations, such as restrictions on take-off and landing ‘slots’, parking fees, and overflight charges, should be lifted during this emergency period. And operating time curfews for freight flights should be lifted, to permit maximum flexibility in the operation of the worldwide air cargo network.
“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,” affirmed Iata Air Cargo Global Head Glyn Hughes. “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.”