London Heathrow Airport is stepping up its cargo capabilities as it calls on more airlines and freight companies to maximise the use of the hub airport’s quieter schedule, so that the aviation industry can play its part in the economic and social fight against COVID-19.
Air freight will keep vital supply lines open and help to get time-critical and temperature-sensitive goods, such as medical supplies and food, across the UK.
Logistics companies are playing a key role by importing COVID-19 testing kits via Heathrow, in preparation for increased demand. Heathrow’s cargo movements are forecast to increase by 53% in the week commencing 30 March 2020, as more airlines and freighters use the available capacity to transport goods which will assist in the fight against coronavirus. This figure is set to increase further as the airport scales up its cargo operation.
Pharmaceutical products are one of Heathrow’s biggest imports, with the airport handling 41% of the UK’s pharmaceutical imports (by value). In 2019, over 12,000 tonnes of medical supplies, including medicines, vaccines, sanitisers, syringes and respirators, travelled through Heathrow.
During normal operations, Heathrow is the UK’s largest port by value. 34% of the country’s cargo travels through the airport, with 95% of that cargo being carried in the belly hold of passenger aircraft. While passenger travel remains restricted for many, airports will continue to play a key role in keeping the UK’s supply chain alive, for both essential workers and goods. Heathrow is, therefore, repurposing its operation and scaling up its cargo offering at this difficult time.
“This is an unprecedented time for the international community, with COVID-19 requiring us all to work together, adapt and adopt extraordinary measures to quell the spread of this virus,” says John Holland-Kaye, CEO Heathrow Airport. “For the first time in a decade, our airport has additional capacity in its schedule, capacity which we’ve begun to see used to help push vital supplies across the globe to help support frontline teams in the battle against this pandemic. We stand ready to support the country through this crisis. Our intention is to remain open at all times to serve those passenger flights that will continue to operate. And as the UK’s biggest port, we will temporarily increase the number of dedicated cargo flights. These will bring in vital supplies of food and medical equipment to help Britain weather this storm.”