The coronavirus outbreak has had an unprecedented impact on the global aviation industry. Airlines have had respond quickly and with innovative solutions to survive the crisis, as IAG Cargo's chief commercial officer, John Cheetham, tells Air Cargo News…
“IAG Cargo is a resilient and adaptable business and one thing this period has demonstrated is our ability to innovate quickly,” says Cheetham. “We have made strategic adjustments across the business to ensure we use our resources effectively and efficiently.
“To achieve this, we have worked in close collaboration with our airport and airline partners and the entire IAG Cargo team has pulled together to keep serving our customers and to keep cargo moving.”
The carrier, recognising its role in keeping supply chains moving, is prioritising the health of its staff.
“Our employees have been designated as key workers and are doing incredible work to ensure that essential goods, like medical supplies and food, are being kept on the move,” says Cheetham. “We are following the latest government advice on health and safety across all markets, and have put a range of social distancing measures in place around our cargo facilities to ensure the safety of our employees.”
IAG Cargo has also stepped up its airfreight operations to help bridge the capacity shortfall that has occurred as a result of limited passenger travel.
Between March 22 and April 26, IAG Cargo undertook around 350 additional cargo-only flights primarily on long-haul routes with passenger wide-body aircraft.
“We were one of the first airline groups to provide scheduled cargo-only flights on our passenger aircraft,” says Cheetham. “We responded quickly to provide our customers with the solutions they needed to keep their freight moving.”
“The opportunity to charter our planes and cargo-only flights are two new services that have been particularly appreciated,” he adds. “We are also maximising space for customers by utilising the passenger cabins of our aircraft with cargo secured to seats and put inside overhead lockers.”
IAG Cargo is leading on coordinating efforts across International Airlines Group (IAG) airlines including Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia.
“We’ve established new routes to put freight capacity where it is most needed,” says Cheetham.
“We have one of the most comprehensive networks of cargo-only flights available and are focused on growing it, by designing schedules that support our customers’ requirements,” says Cheetham. “In addition to our comprehensive transatlantic network, our newest cargo-only routes include London Heathrow (LHR) to Zurich, LHR to Johannesburg and, as of next week, LHR to Dubai.”
Currently, IAG Cargo is transporting thousands of tonnes of cargo each week, with a significant proportion of its shipments being vital medical supplies — including PPE, respirators, face masks, hand sanitiser and medical equipment — from China for the use of health authorities.
Cheetham explains: “We have significantly increased the number of flights coming into London from China. Fourteen flights depart each week from Shanghai and seven from Beijing, carrying cargo in the hold and where possible, in the cabin too.
“We are also operating up to five flights per day from Beijing to Dublin to transport PPE. This is set to run for two months in a critical supply operation for the Irish Health Service Executive (HSE).”
Cheetham says that in addition to exporting goods from China to support the fight against coronavirus, IAG Cargo remains busy across its global network.
“We continue to support ecommerce businesses, we’re importing food into the UK and last week we made sure that New Yorkers didn’t run out of tanning lotion by delivering a 12.6 tonnes supply of tanning lotion into JFK,” he says.