Desperate airlines swap passengers for cargo to stay afloat

Air carriers are desperate to use whatever capacity they can for cargo, as earnings from passenger operations have almost vanished with traffic down 90 percent. 

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, air cargo has been a vital partner in delivering much-needed medicines, medical equipment (including spare parts/repair components), and in keeping global supply chains functioning for the most time-sensitive materials.

This has been done through dedicated cargo freighter operations, utilization of cargo capacity in passenger aircraft, and relief flights to affected areas.

Airlines are expected to lose $252 billion in revenue from passenger operations this year because of the coronavirus, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). In normal times, about half of the world’s air cargo is transported on dedicated freighters and the rest goes in the bellies of passenger aircraft along with people’s baggage. Airlines have increasingly relied on passenger planes to transport cargo since the 2008 global financial crisis.

IATA says airlines transport over 52 million metric tons of goods a year, representing more than 35% of global trade by value but less than 1% of world trade by volume. That is equivalent to $6.8 trillion worth of goods annually, or $18.6 billion worth of goods every day.

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