Heathrow Airport has said it will be 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. Heathrow said 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 as the country pulls together to battle this pandemic.
It noted that logistics companies have already begun playing a key role in this fight, by importing COVID-19 testing kits via Heathrow, in preparation for increased demand. Next week, Heathrow forecasts its cargo movements to increase by 53%, as more airlines and freighters use the available capacity to transport goods which will assist in the fight against coronavirus. It also expects this figure to increase further as the airport scales up its cargo operation. The airport said that pharmaceutical products are one of its top imports, with Heathrow handling 41% of the UK’s pharmaceutical imports (by value). It added that, in 2019, over 12,000 tonnes of medical supplies such as medicines, vaccines, sanitisers, syringes and respirators travelled through the airport.
The airport said that during normal operations, it is the UK’s largest port by value as 34% of the country’s cargo travels through the airport, with the majority of that cargo (95%) being carried in the belly hold of passenger aircraft. Whilst 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.
This, it said, is why Heathrow is repurposing its operation and scaling up its cargo offering at this difficult time.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, commented: “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.”
Heathrow is offering free parking to aircraft grounded as a result of COVID-19.