Civilian Airlines Grounded
Air Canada, WestJet and Porter have all grounded
much of their fleets, news reports inform. What is not discussed are
the ramifications of the cargo void this creates.
More than half of the world's air cargo business
is carried on passenger aircraft, Amsterdam-based air cargo analyst
WorldACD writes. That volume rises to more than 60 per cent for cargo
shipped by plane between the United States and Europe.
This means that travel bans imposed on both sides
of the Atlantic will "cause a severe drop in capacity offered," the
firm told Morning Trade. That puts increased
pressure on express delivery firms like UPS, FedEx and DHL to take up
the slack and has left importers of high-value items like medicine or
perishable goods, such as fish and other food products, scrambling to
make new arrangements, John Drake, executive director for supply chain
policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said.
"You're talking about medicines for diabetics,
insulin for example, and other critical products where there may be a
limited supply in the U.S.," Drake said. The ability to ship those
goods in the cargo holds of passenger planes "has largely dried up," he
The severity of the situation was reflected in a
tweet on March 18 from the International Civil Aviation Organization,
an international standard-setting body for aviation at the United
Nations, which wrote: "There is an urgent need to ensure the
sustainability of the global air cargo supply chain and to maintain the
availability of critical medications and equipment such as ventilators,
masks, & other health & hygiene items which will help
reduce the spread of #COVID19."
What it means is that Canada could commandeer
grounded planes and crew to move cargo internally in Canada and to
bring into Canada crucial food, medicine and health supplies from Asia,
Europe, Mexico and elsewhere. China is offering medical supplies to the
world now that its internal demand has eased.
In its March 21 announcement, the Trudeau
government said it is working with Canadian airlines and foreign
governments to provide access to commercial flights for Canadian
travellers who want to return home. The flights will prioritize
stranded travellers who are Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent
residents, or immediate family members of Canadian citizens. In
addition, only travellers who are asymptomatic will be allowed to
board, and all travellers will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days
upon entry. "In the first series of flights to help Canadians return
home, Air Canada will operate a special flight today from Morocco.
Flights will also be planned for Peru and Spain, and other countries as
soon as possible. Factors such as the number of Canadians, airspace
closures, and the local situation are being taken into consideration in
order to identify the locations for these flights. We are currently
working with Air Canada and are engaged with other airlines as we
assess global needs," the government press release informed.
This article was published in
Volume 50 Number 9 - March 21, 2020
Civilian Airlines Grounded