The new ‘Facilitating Air Cargo Operations during COVID-19 Outbreak’ guidelines released by the European Commission (EC) at the end of last week have been welcomed by the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) and Airlines for Europe (A4E) to support the continuance of vital cargo flights during the worldwide pandemic.
The air cargo sector has been severely affected during the crisis as travel bans across the world have hampered efforts to maintain cargo operations. The reliance on time-sensitive cargo accounts for more than ‘35% of world trade by value,’ according to the guidelines, and the disruption to the supply chain across the world has had a significant impact.
Uninterrupted air cargo services
The guidelines address the need for the continuance of uninterrupted air cargo services to transport vital and essential supplies, such as food, medical supplies and PPE and ‘other products which are vital for the functioning of sensitive supply chains,’ and provide EU member states with clear measures on how to handle operations while faced with additional health control to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. The guidelines have been welcomed as some European airlines have been using passenger aircraft to aid the supply of PPE and other vital supplies into European countries where there has been a critical need.
Air logistics of vital importance
Air logistics chains need to respond to immediate demands on a global scale and this is highlighting the vital importance of the cargo supply chain and the impact on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The president of the ERA, Andrew Kelly issued a statement following the release of the guidelines and asked EU member states to adopt and understand them, but also to support cargo airlines to enable them to continue to operate during the crisis. He said, ‘The additional costs of network changes, re-routing flights, ferry and positioning flights and significant hotel costs, where hotels are available are a significant additional burden on cargo airlines, with many essential routes and services now unsustainable.’