London Heathrow is stepping up its cargo capabilities to maximise the use of the airport’s quieter schedule so that the aviation industry can play its part in the economic and social fight against Coronoavirus.
Air freight will keep supply lines open and help to get time-critical and temperature-sensitive goods, such as medical supplies and food across the UK.
Next week, Heathrow’s cargo movements are forecast to increase by 53%, as more airlines and freighters use the available capacity to transport goods. This figure is set to increase further as the airport scales up its cargo operation.
Pharmaceutical products are one of Heathrow’s top imports, with the airport handling 41% of the UK’s pharmaceutical imports (by value). In 2019, over 12,000 tonnes of medical supplies such as medicines, vaccines, sanitisers, syringes and respirators travelled through Heathrow.
During normal operations, Heathrow is the UK’s largest port by value with 34% of the country’s cargo. The majority is carried in the belly hold of passenger planes.
Heathrow is also taking a number of steps to assist the airline industry. These steps include supporting slot alleviation – a relaxation of the rules requiring airlines to use their slots to keep them, offering free parking to grounded aircraft and bringing forward growth incentive payments which have helped cashflow for airlines.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said, “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.
“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.”