IATA warns that air cargo bottlenecks put lives at risk

27 Mars, 2020, 05:23 | Auteur: Yves Courtet
  • Airlines turn to cargo for revenue as U.S. Senate nears industry aid vote

"Nobody can survive this for more than a few months, when you have this unprecedented 95 per cent decline in passenger numbers or even 100 per cent in some cases and you still have all those fixed costs", said Brendan Sobie, an aviation analyst in Singapore.

Delta and Air New Zealand have joined a growing number of carriers offering cargo charter services on passenger planes to boost revenue.

"Although we have announced very significant temporary capacity reductions and our passenger flights are largely dedicated to bringing Canadians home, Air Canada's aircraft and our expertise in handling cargo are valuable assets that we can use to move medical supplies and other essential goods to keep the world economy going".

Airlines are asking governments to ensure vital cargo supply lines remain open and efficient, calling for measures including the removal of slot restrictions and operating-hour curfews, and exempting crew who don't interact with the public from 14-day quarantine requirements, IATA said Wednesday.

"Travel restrictions and evaporating demand mean that, aside from cargo, there is nearly no passenger business", IATA Director General Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement. Those receiving funds can not lay off employees before September 30 or change collective bargaining pacts.

The draft bill has restrictions on stock buybacks, dividends and executive compensation, and allows the government to take equity, warrants or other compensation as part of the rescue package. President Donald Trump has promised to sign it.

In the United States, United Airlines Holdings Inc announced further cuts to domestic capacity, meaning its overall capacity, including global, will be down by around 68% in April.

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Alaska Air Group Inc said it would cut its schedule by 70% in April and May and had suspended its dividend, drawn down a $400 million credit line and secured an additional $425 million loan to help weather the crisis.

Air India is said to have rejected the government's demand to convert some of its passenger aircraft into cargo planes by removing seats, although some private airlines have offered their planes to carry material from one city to another during the nationwide lockdown.

Singapore's finance minister Heng Swee Keat said Singapore Airlines Ltd would soon announce "corporate action" supported by state investor Temasek Holdings to tackle the crisis. Share trading in the carrier, which said this week it was seeking extra funds, was halted on Thursday.

Malaysian budget airline AirAsia Group said it had suspended some of its global and domestic flights, while its India and Philippines units were suspending all flights for certain periods.

In Asian countries, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand have announced some financial relief for airlines, but this has not stopped carriers from putting staff on leave and grounding planes. The carrier was struggling to fill planes with passengers even before the virus outbreak as traffic slid in the second half of a year ago with the anti-government protests in Hong Kong, its base.

Virgin Australia plans to permanently cut more than 1,000 jobs among the 8,000 staff that have already been stood down. Australia's Flight Centre Travel Group said it would cut 6,000 travel agent roles globally.

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