Airlines in the Gulf have seen demand for cargo services shoot up by as much as 20% year-on-year and are set to get even busier as the need to transport food and medicine increases amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
That is according to the owner of Dubai-based airline support firm UAS International Trip Support, who told Arabian Business that demand for air freight services will increase as cargo now needs to be moved more frequently.
Mohammed Al Husary, executive president and owner of UAS, said: “There's big demand on medical supplies and essential supplies globally.”
Nicholas Cole, Riyadh-based CEO of airport operating company DAA International, told AB that he had seen a similar trend at its airports region.
“It is important to keep airports open. We are in conversations with a number of airlines across our group who still wish to continue flying with the bottom of the plane full,” he said.
“I'll give you one example, some of the Covid-19 tests coming out of China can be flown in hours. If they were to travel by road, or by boat, it would take so much longer.
“So, I think it forces the world to think about what aviation does for a connectivity, not just for people, but also for, you know, goods that are time sensitive.
“I'd suggest, currently, that unfortunately we'll have a lot of time sensitive goods, such as [Covid-19] tests and potential vaccines. These kinds of things will be incredibly time sensitive.
“So I suggest that airlines and airports, although they may be closed to passengers, many airports, ourselves included, are starting to think about what else can we do to keep the facilities moving and play our part in the recovery of Covid-19,” he added.
Both Emirates SkyCargo and Etihad Cargo are ramping up their operations since all passenger flights in and out of the UAE were suspended by authorities.
Global air cargo capacity has been reduced by around half because most passenger flights around the world have been dropped amid a crash in travel demand.
During the eight week period between mid-January and mid-March, Emirates' freighter aircraft transported more than 50,000 tonnes of cargo including medical and food supplies. During one charter operation, Emirates SkyCargo transported close to half a million units of hand sanitisers in a single Boeing 777 freighter aircraft.Etihad Airways has converted a fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners to be used to conduct cargo-only flights.