Heathrow to boost cargo capacity in the fight against COVID-19

Heathrow Airport has called on more airlines and freight companies to maximise the use of the hub’s quieter flight schedule in the fight against COVID-19.

Logistics companies have already begun importing key equipment such as COVID-19 testing kits via Heathrow in preparation for increased demand.

Next week, Heathrow’s cargo movements are forecast to increase by 53%, as more airlines and freighter operators use the available capacity to transport goods which will assist in the fight against coronavirus.

This figure is set to increase further as the airport scales up its cargo operation.

Around 40% (by value) of the UK’s pharmaceutical products (see graphic below) such as medicines, vaccines and respirators are imported via Heathrow Airport, described as “Britain’s front door”.

In 2019, over 12,000 tonnes of medical supplies such as medicines, vaccines, sanitisers, syringes and respirators travelled through Heathrow.

During normal operations, Heathrow is the UK’s largest port by value. 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 planes.

While 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 is why Heathrow will be repurposing its operation and scaling up its cargo offering at this difficult time.

Heathrow is also taking a number of steps to assist the airline industry during this challenging time. These steps include supporting slot alleviation – a relaxation of the rules requiring airlines to use their slots to keep them, offering free parking to aircraft grounded as a result of COVID-19 and bringing forward growth incentive payments which have helped to increase cashflow for airlines during a challenging time for the sector.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “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.

“For the first time in a decade, our airport has additional capacity in its schedule, capacity which we’ve begun to see used to help push vital supplies across the globe to help support frontline teams in the battle against this pandemic.”

Holland-Kaye continued: “We stand ready to support the country through this crisis. Our intention is to remain open at all times to serve those passenger flights that will continue to operate. 

“And as the UK’s biggest port, we will temporarily increase the number of dedicated cargo flights. These will bring in vital supplies of food and medical equipment to help Britain weather this storm.”

 

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