African carriers respond to covid-19 outbreak with extra cargo flights

By Damian Brett

Ethiopian Cargo and SAA Cargo have both been adding additional cargo flights to cater for medical equipment demand related to the coronavirus outbreak.

For the first time in its history, the cargo division of South African Airways, SAA Cargo, operated a passenger aircraft for a pure cargo uplift. 

On April 6, SAA Cargo operated an Airbus A340-600 as a cargo-only flight, transporting essential goods between Johannesburg and Frankfurt.

The outbound cargo included perishables such as fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, laboratory supplies, as well as automotive and aircraft parts for repairs.

On the inbound leg from Europe, the aircraft landed last night in Johannesburg and the cargo included testing kits for Covid-19, immunological pharmaceuticals, insulin, surgical personal protective equipment (PPE), and processing equipment for food such as baby milk powder.

SAA Cargo’s acting general manager, Justice Luthuli, said: “SAA has demonstrated agility and we are working with our partners to provide them and our country with solutions that are relevant in these difficult times.

“The decision to deploy an A346, is based on both its capacity and range and so bolsters our freighter services during this time when there is high demand for cargo shipments.”

The next pure cargo flight is scheduled to depart from Johannesburg to Guangzhou on April 10. It will operate on the same aircraft type for collection and delivery of medical supplies.

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Cargo has extended its reach to 74 destinations globally, while also operating charter flights.

In March alone, the carrier transported a total uplift of over 45,848 tons of cargo to different parts of the world deploying both its freighters and passenger fleet.

The shipments include pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and healthcare products, carried with 86 charter flights using B777 freighters.

Tewolde GebreMariam, Ethiopian Group chief executive, said: “We are carrying medical supplies in both scheduled and charter flights using the cabin and belly hold of our passenger aircraft besides our cargo fleet

“Despite the grim situation the world is grappling with, we feel heartened by the small contribution we are making to curb further loss of lives by carrying critical medical supplies where they are needed the most.”

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