It’s no secret that airlines and airplane manufacturers have been clobbered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Particularly hard hit are international flights traditionally flown by jumbo jets. Borders are closed and people aren’t flying.
There is a small silver lining. Just as restaurants started take-out service to survive, airlines are filling planes with freight.
U.S. airlines are reeling from the pandemic and have lost more than $20 billion combined in the last two quarters. Even with the surge in air freight rates, cargo revenues aren’t enough to make up for those losses on their own, especially with capacity still limited, CNBC’s Leslie Joseph reported earlier this month: “However, it has become a more important revenue source with many passengers still forgoing flights.”
Before the coronavirus, decades of a long aviation boom spawned a network of nearly 50,000 air routes that traversed the world. In less than a year, the pandemic wiped almost a third of them off the map, according to Angus Whitley of Traveler.com.
In late January, 47,756 operational routes criss-crossed the world — more than half of them in the U.S., Western Europe and Northeast Asia, according to OAG Aviation Worldwide. By Nov. 2, there were just 33,416 routes on global schedules.
For shippers, the shortage of passenger flights has a corresponding impact on air cargo. About half of the world’s air freight is flown in passenger planes’ bellies. Even though airlines continued to rehabilitate cargo business in September, the air travel recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is stalling, wrote Eric Kulisch, Air Cargo Editor. If airplanes are grounded, so is cargo. It is that simple.
Air cargo sector has retained 92 percent of its business while almost 90 percent of passenger demand has evaporated because of travel fears and government restrictions.
Further improvement in cargo volumes could be capped by the ongoing shortage in