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Don’t Let Air Cargo Fly Out of the Spotlight

Why support for this critical sector should be part of the EU’s recovery plan

By  Brussels,

Air cargo has proven invaluable since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Essential goods, including critical medicines and protective equipment, but also fresh food items, were flown to Europe on a daily basis. Global value chains were maintained. Consumers continued to have access to their products and overnight deliveries. Airlines opened new routes. Air cargo is the only mode of transport that can ship anywhere in the world within hours — and it has done so under the most difficult conditions over the last few months, illustrating its systemic relevance.

A4E airlines have actively contributed to this success story. Before the crisis, approximately half of air cargo was carried in the bellies of passenger aircraft. With most passenger flights grounded, however, full freighters quickly became high in demand. To respond to this new situation, many passenger aircraft were re-purposed and used for cargo-only flights. The sector has even coined a new term — the “preighter”, or a passenger aircraft whose seats have been removed and used as a freighter.

The air cargo sector continues to play its part to offer additional capacity and respond to specific COVID-19 related demand in these unprecedented times. However, it remains to be seen how the general industry and consumer demand will develop in the coming weeks and months.

Before the crisis, European air cargo accounted for nearly 30% of exports and 21% of imports in valueEurostat, 2018 — — although it only represented 2,6% of EU trade volume. As a crucial enabler of the European economy, a strengthened air cargo sector should be fully part of Europe’s recovery strategy.

A4E is therefore calling on the European Commission and national governments to remove unnecessary obstacles that are hindering air cargo’s current and future development. Specific measures would include:

  • Adopting a clear and legally binding definition of “crew” relevant to cargo operations at EU level;
  • Establishing mutual recognition of background-checked staff to facilitate the transfer of workers with technical competencies between EU airports;
  • Maintaining EU Green Lanes, together with the freedom of movement for transport personnel and crew;
  • Including ambitious R&D projects on digitalisation and innovation, covering ground operations, monitoring and reporting in upcoming EU recovery plan and the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

Read our latest position paper to learn more.