Passenger planes being refit to carry cargo and keep liners moving
Airliners are staying afloat during the present coronavirus pandemic by shifting their primary operations from passenger travel to the movement of air cargo, according to industry reports.
Major airlines such as Air Canada, Lufthansa, Delta Air Lines and Icelandair have all reconfigured planes to carry cargo in the main cabin.
Given the new players in the air cargo market, rates for air cargo have soared, with goods moving on certain routes from China to the US now ranging from US$12 to $19 per kilo when they were between $3 and $6 in 2019.
While some countries are starting to consider an easing of restrictions domestically, it will be a long-time – potentially the whole of 2020 – before the commercial passenger flights can resume their previous level of operations.
Further still, quite whether people will have the finances and will to travel if and when the pandemic is over is another matter.
Whatever happens, major airlines are having to reshape their business offerings for the long-term, with a cargo offering now an essential part of the business model.
Airlines transport around 35% of global trade by value each year, however they also transport less than 1% of world trade by volume.
This is equivalent to US$6.8 trillion worth of goods annually, or $18.6 billion worth of goods every day.
Therefore, air cargo plays a very crucial role in enabling global trade, and that role may yet get far more important.