This article was published before we became the Chartered Institute of Export & International Trade on 10 July 2024, and this is reflected in references to our old brand and name. For more information about us becoming Chartered, visit our dedicated webpage on the change here.

Airlines are increasingly using passenger planes as freight carriers to meet the growing demand for cargo by air.

About half of the world’s air cargo is usually transported in passenger jet bellyholds, but with consumer flights starkly declining since the start of the pandemic, freight forwarders are using passenger spaces to increase their air cargo services.

Airlines including Air France-KLM-Martinair, Lufthansa, United, Delta and Cathay Pacific are loading prioritised cargo including medical supplies onto passenger seats and stowage space, as well as bellyhold.

Virgin have already followed their lead and British Airways have also signalled an interest in doing the same, according to Loadstar.

Capacity issues causes price rises

Despite efforts from the industry to continue flying cargo, shrinking air capacity is pushing up prices for key supplies, according to The Times.

The newspaper quotes the price for sending goods from Shanghai to Heathrow as rising by more than a third (35.2 percent) last week, according to the TAC Index, a Hong Kong-based company providing price information for international air cargo.

In the month since the pandemic hit Europe, the same price has increased by 58.3 percent.

However, air freight connections from Europe to China are now increasing again as China continues to emerge from its own struggles with the virus.

Live air cargo data

The Air Cargo Tariff and Rules (TACT) information service from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is collecting and monitoring the latest service information from around 200 airlines throughout the pandemic.

You can view this new service here.