In March, the growth in air cargo at Brussels Airport has is continuing, with volumes up by 41 per cent compared with the same period in 2020, despite a 91 per cent drop in passenger numbers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    “The last twelve months have been particularly difficult for the airline industry; the few periods of cautious recovery have always been short-lived, and now we are always faced with a ban on non-essential travel,” explained Brussels Airport Company CEO, Arnaud Feist.

    “The 19th of April will therefore be a crucial date for the sector, the long-awaited start of the gradual recovery that we hope can now be rolled out for the duration. It is therefore important that, from that moment on, travel to countries where the health situation is comparable to or better than in Belgium, is made possible, provided that Covid tests are carried out on departure and/or arrival. This will not immediately lead to mass travel, but it will be an important first step towards the recovery of a sector that has been hard hit by this crisis for over a year. Vaccination and the digital green certificate remain the only essential means to return to normal activity.”

    In a statement it said that air cargo continues to grow strongly with an increase in volumes carried of no less than 41 per cent in March compared to March 2020 and 27 per cent by March 2019. In contrast to the passenger figures, the cargo figures are compared to those of 2020 because the Covid crisis had only a limited impact on cargo volumes in 2020. Due to the cancellation of passenger flights, however, there was a temporary decrease in the last week of March and the first weeks of April last year.

    The growth in volumes in March was achieved despite the sharp drop in volumes on passenger flights (-41 per cent). Full cargo traffic grew strongly again (+73 per cent), and this growth could be observed for all existing airlines. The growth in express services (+65 per cent) is due to the effect observed in 2021 of the extra routes added by DHL Express in 2020 and the increase in demand for e- commerce shipments. Trucked freight is also up by 43 per cent.

    The total cargo volume processed by the Brussels Airport cargo platform rose by 41 per cent compared with March 2020, reaching 74,000 tonnes. Import and export volumes increased, especially for the Asian and North American regions.

    The total number of flight movements fell by 71 per cent in March 2021 compared to the pre-crisis period (2019), adding up to 5,177 movements (compared with 18,126 in March 2019). The number of passenger flights fell by 86 per cent. Each flight carried an average of 89 passengers.

    The number of cargo flights was up by 46 per cent compared to last year (2020) mainly due to the large number of flights operated using passenger aircraft that are used only for cargo. Several airlines use this type of aircraft to offer additional cargo capacity and thus partially compensate for the loss of many traditional passenger flights. The increase in cargo flights was mainly in daytime flights.