The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has called for greater coordination between governments to ensure that air freight can continue to flow during the current Covid-19 pandemic. Air cargo operations continue to be hampered by permit approval delays, lack of ground support, and quarantine requirements for freighter aircraft flight crews.
“Airlines are providing as much capacity as they can,” affirms Iata Air Cargo Global head Glyn Hughes. “Governments need to step up and ensure that vital supply lines remain open and efficient and that there is adequate infrastructure and support available in the air and on the ground.”
International regulatory agencies have acted to facilitate air freight operations. The World Customs Organisation has instituted a network of emergency contacts to allow immediate responses to cargo blockages at borders. The International Civil Aviation Organisation has released a number of State letters calling on its member States to enable air freight flows during the pandemic crisis.
Many governments are indeed facilitating air cargo operations. And the European Commission has issued guidelines on how to enable air freight operations during the crisis.
However, Iata warns that there are still too many cases of delays in the issuing of charter cargo flight permits, failures to exempt freighter aircraft flight crews from Covid-19 testing, and inadequate ground transport and infrastructure to support air cargo operations. For air freight to be effective, the association pointed out, the cargo had to be able to move efficiently through the whole supply chain.
Consequently, Iata wants governments to implement five important steps. These are – to reduce the paperwork needed for charter flights, exempt cargo aircrew from quarantine rules that apply to populations in general, make certain that there are enough cargo processing staff and facilities to ensure efficient operations, mutually recognise agreed health certificates, licences and other global standards, and ensure alternate airports are open even if no passenger flights are operating.
“To keep cargo flights operating safely, airlines need access to alternate airports along all routes,” explains Hughes. “These alternate airports are where aircraft can land in the event of an emergency during flight. Because of the sharp drop in passenger flights, some airports that serve as the critical alternate airport function are closed or not available at all times.”
“We all need to work together to keep cargo moving,” he highlights. “That means we all need to be on the same page. Global standards are a priority to achieve this objective. Iata is disseminating the information required. And where there is more complexity, Iata’s vital role is to collect deviations/local information and make it available to all the players in the cargo industry.”