Geneva [Switzerland]: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and its members have renewed their call to governments to take urgent measures to ensure that vital air cargo supply lines remain open, efficient and effective.
"Air cargo is a vital partner in the global fight against COVID-19. But we are still seeing examples of cargo flights filled with life-saving medical supplies and equipment grounded due to cumbersome and bureaucratic processes to secure slots and operating permits," said IATA's Director General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac.
"These delays are endangering lives. All governments need to step up to keep global supply chains open," he said in a statement.
The COVID-19 crisis has seen almost the entire world-wide passenger aircraft fleet grounded, a fleet which normally transports almost half of total air cargo shipments.
IATA said airlines are scrambling to meet the gap between cargo demand and available lift by all means possible, including re-introducing freighter services and using passenger aircraft for cargo operations.
To support these efforts, governments need to remove key obstacles by introducing fast track procedures for overflight and landing permits for cargo operations, particularly in key manufacturing hubs in Asia -- China, South Korea and Japan -- in response to the increased number of cargo charters replacing withdrawn passenger operations.
Crew members who do not interact with the public from 14-day quarantine requirements should be exempted to ensure cargo supply chains are maintained.
Authorities must support temporary traffic rights for cargo operations where restrictions may apply and remove economic impediments like overflight charges, parking fees and slot restrictions to support air cargo operations during these unprecedented times.
Governments must also remove operating hour curfews for cargo flights to facilitate the most flexible global air cargo network operations.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reiterated the importance of air cargo in the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"Around the world, the frontline health workers who fight against COVID-19 need to be continuously supplied with necessary medical equipment and protective material," said Paul Molinaro, Chief of Operations Support and Logistics at WHO.
"It is our collective duty to keep these supply lines open by continuing air cargo operations. The scale-down of air passenger flow is seriously hurting our scheduled freight operations," he said.
"We call on airline companies and governments to join the global effort to ensure dedicated freight capacity continues to operate on previously high volume passenger routes that are now closed down," said Molinaro.