With freight capacity scarce, the number of passenger airlines offering dedicated charter flights is proliferating.
More passenger airlines are helping fill the severe shortage in freight capacity by turning their aircraft into cargo-only airplanes to haul critical medical supplies, foodstuffs and other economically essential goods. The rapid implosion of air travel as countries closed borders to contain the coronavirus outbreak forced airlines to ground most of their fleets, especially widebody planes used in intercontinental service. Lower-deck space in passenger planes represents about half the worldwide capacity for moving goods – and even more between North America and Europe.
With one million flights cancelled through June 30, there aren’t enough all-cargo planes to make up the difference and air freight rates are shooting up as a result. A one-way charter for a full freighter on key routes can cost up to $1 million today, four times the rate before the crisis, according to industry experts.
Airlines are relying heavily, but not exclusively, on large aircraft such as the Airbus A350, and the Boeing 777 and 787 that carry huge amounts of cargo even when loaded with passengers and baggage. Much of the activity at the moment is trans-Atlantic, but airlines are also dispatching cargo-only flights between North America and South America, and Australia, and between Europe and Asia. Some carriers are being creative by putting cargo in the seats of the passenger compartment, secured by netting and other restraints, to maximize efficiency. And a few are offering multi-party, less-than-full aircraft charters for importers and exporters that don’t have enough volume to rent an entire plane.
Airlines making the shift to utilize passenger airplanes include Air Canada, Lufthansa, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, American Airlines, LATAM Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad Airways, Air New Zealand, China Eastern Airlines, Cathay Pacific and International Airlines Group (IAG, parent company of British Airways).
While not every plane is equipped with the safety mechanisms to carry all cargo, such as pharmaceuticals, airlines are doing their best to accommodate as much cargo as possible. For more information on flight availability, please reach out to your Mallory Representative.