Coronavirus (COVID-19): Heathrow’s cargo movements to increase

Wassim El Attar
Supply Chain Analyst

Date : 25 March 2020

Heathrow is due to scale up its cargo capabilities as it appeals to more airlines and freight organisations to make maximum use of the airport’s quieter schedule.

Supporting the economic and social fight against COVID-19

Vital supply lines will be kept open thanks to the continuation of air freight, and will support the delivery of time-dependent and temperature sensitive goods across the country. Logistics companies have already started playing a major role in this fight by bringing in COVID-19 testing kits via the hub, to tackle the increasing demand.

Next week, Heathrow’s cargo movements are estimated to increase by 53%, as more airlines and freighters use the available capacity to carry goods that are essential in the fight against COVID-19. The figure is set to rise even further as the hub steps up its cargo operation.

41% of the UK’s pharmaceutical imports

Pharmaceutical products are among the top imports at Heathrow Airport, which handles 41% of the country’s pharmaceutical imports. In 2019, over 12,000 tonnes of medical supplies such as medicines, vaccines, sanitisers, syringes and respirators went through the hub.

Whilst passenger travel is being restricted at the moment for many, airports will carry on playing an important role in keeping the UK’s supply chain afloat, for both essential workers and goods. That’s why the hub will be repurposing its operations and ramping up its cargo offering at this difficult time.

In addition, the hub is adopting a series of measures to back the airline industry during this challenging time. These measures include supporting slot alleviation – a relaxation of the rules requiring airlines to use their slots to keep them, offering free parking to grounded aircraft (as a result of COVID-19) and bringing forward growth incentive payments, which have assisted airlines in increasing their cashflow during these times.

Heathrow’s CEO, 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”.

He added: “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.”

Recently, Manchester airport announced that it was closing its second and third terminals due to the reduced demand caused by COVID-19.

For the latest government guidelines on Coronavirus (COVID-19), please check out IGD’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) hub.

Get the latest insights to help your business understand what the food and grocery industry is doing around the world to address the evolving pandemic by visiting our Supply Chain Analysis Coronavirus (COVID-19) hub.