Coronavirus: Heathrow steps up cargo capacity in fight against disease

heathrow cargo facilities

Heathrow Airport is stepping up its cargo capabilities and urges more airlines and freight companies to maximise the use of the hub airport’s quieter schedule in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

Air freight enables getting time-critical and temperature-sensitive goods such as medical supplies and food across the UK during the coronavirus pandemic.

Forty-one per cent of the UK’s pharmaceutical products such as medicines, vaccines and respirators are already imported via Heathrow.

The airport says that, in preparation for increased demand, logistics companies have begun importing key equipment such as covid-19 testing kits via Heathrow.

Key role in the supply chain

Heathrow forecasts cargo movements to surge by 53 per cent next week compared to the weekly average, as the airport prioritises cargo flights with medical supplies and more airlines and freighters use the available capacity.

During normal operations, Heathrow is the UK’s largest port by value – 34 per cent of the country’s cargo travels through the airport, with the majority being carried in the belly hold of passenger aircraft.

Although passenger travel remains restricted, Heathrow is repurposing its operations and scaling up its cargo offering, continuing to play a key role in keeping the UK’s supply chain alive for both essential workers and goods.

Heathrow says it is also assisting the airline industry during this challenging time in numerous ways. These include supporting slot alleviation, 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.

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “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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