Cumbersome bureaucracy is frustrating efficient air cargo operations and endangering lives during the current Covid-19 crisis, industry experts have warned.
The virus crisis has seen almost the entire global passenger aircraft fleet grounded meaning cargo capacity has been cut by almost a half.
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.
But The International Air Transport Association (IATA) believes obstacles are preventing cargo operators from ensuring that supply lines remain open and has called on governments to take urgent action.
“Air cargo is a vital partner in the global fight against Covid-19,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general.
“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.
“These delays are endangering lives. All governments need to step up to keep global supply chains open.”
IATA wants governments to introduce fast track procedures for overflight and landing permits for cargo operations, particularly in key manufacturing hubs in Asia.
It has asked governments to exempt flight crew members who do not interact with the public from 14-day quarantine requirements and wants overflight charges, parking fees, and slot restrictions suspended.
IATA has also urged governments to remove operating hour curfews for cargo flights.
“It is our collective duty to keep these supply lines open by continuing air cargo operations,” said Paul Molinaro, chief, operations support and logistics for the World Health Organisation.
“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.”
IATA’s global head of cargo, Glyn Hughes, said: “Air cargo is on the front line, not only fighting Covid-19 but ensuing 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.”
A number of airlines have already taken measures to ensure the flow of vital goods by air.
Delta, American and United have started cargo-only flights, using passenger aircraft domestically and internationally.
Air Canada, 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 medical equipment through its hub to Africa’s 54 nations.