National Airlines calls up three freighters in response to capacity crunch

National Airlines and National Air Cargo Bring the First Relief Materials to Cyclone Idai Hit Mozambique

National Airlines has called up three of its freighters from storage as it looks to meet cargo demand.

The carrier said that in response to the “rapidly growing demand for cargo” charters it would add three more B747-400Fs to its existing fleet of two of the aircraft.

National had acquired three B-747-400Fs two years back and because of the declining demand for airfreight all of them had been parked in Arizona.

Following maintenance checks, the first of the three aircraft was put into service in September, with another due to join in October and the third in November.

Chris Alf, chairman of National, said: “We always had a plan of bringing out the parked airplanes into service right at the beginning of the year but then the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

“We felt the urgency to bring on these aircraft to support the demand for moving the urgent relief supplies in support of governments and global aid agencies.

“It was strategically important for us to bring in additional cargo capacity since there is a huge constraint because of the pandemic taking away the belly capacity on passenger operations. We are happy to offer our global customers with an additional three B747-400Fs.”

National said its B747-400Fs are flying between the US, Middle East, China, and Hong Kong on a daily basis.

The move comes just as the industry heads into a peak season that is proving hard to predict. While demand is expected to be muted compared with previous years, passenger carriers are only slowly bringing capacity back into the market raising question marks over the supply demand balance.

Rates certainly remain higher than this time last year with prices from Hong Kong to North America up by more than 50% year on year to an average of $5.26 per kg in September, according to TAC Index data.

Forwarders also appear to be moving to protect themselves from potential supply chain disruption due to a supply-demand imbalance. Several of the larger players have over recent weeks distributed press releases promoting the launch of charter operations for the peak season and beyond.

Another factor playing into the market is the launch of a Covid-19 vaccine, which would require airfreight support for worldwide distribution, and has the potential – although this is looking unlikely – to coincide with the peak season.

A survey recently carried out by Air Cargo News  revealed industry concern about the scale of the operation. IATA has also been urging the air cargo industry, pharma companies, governments and regulators to prepare for the supply chain challenge of distributing a vaccine.

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Damian Brett

Damian Brett
I have been writing about the freight and logistics industry since 2007 when I joined International Freighting Weekly to cover the shipping sector.After a stint in PR, I have gone on to work for Containerisation International and Lloyds List - where I was editor of container shipping - before joining Air Cargo News in 2015.Contact me on [email protected]