State of flux

posted on 15th September 2020

Air freight carriers can expect waves of pharma transport demand in line with the patterns of the pandemic, with demand recently shifting to the Americas rather than Europe, says IAG Cargo’s chief commercial officer John Cheetham

How have air cargo pharma demand patterns been affected since the start of the pandemic? How has that been evolving?
Since the start of the pandemic, IAG Cargo has seen strong year on year growth in our Constant Climate sales. The Americas are performing very well, with South America and the Iberia network being supported by our investment in our Madrid hub. The strongest growth has been from routes outbound from the UK and Ireland, where revenue from Constant Climate is up 29% on last year.

Outside of shipping pharmaceuticals, IAG Cargo has also supported the medical response to the Covid-19 pandemic, shipping over 11,000 tonnes of PPE on charters in Q2 and huge tonnage of medical equipment, including large numbers of ventilators. Our dedicated charter team facilitated quick turnarounds for new routes to transport medical supplies, such as setting up new operations out of Beijing and Shenzhen.

Overall, we anticipate fluxes of demand in line with the patterns of the pandemic – for example, now shifting focus to meet increased demand for medical supplies in Americas rather than Europe.

What have been the biggest challenges for air cargo pharma carriers and customers?
The biggest challenge was the speed at which the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded. We had to respond quickly and we did so by providing solutions to our customers. We provided the opportunity to charter our aircraft and established a comprehensive programme of scheduled cargo-only flying.

Our pharma customers have been able to benefit from the option to charter aircraft, as overseen by our new charter team, and have access to a newly formed network of cargoonly flights. We have a team of specialist sales people who focus on the pharma customer requirements. We use this feedback to ensure our offering, in terms of product and network, remains relevant to their needs.

To what extent have carriers (and/or their customers) been able to maintain their pharma products and networks?
To deliver for our customers during the pandemic, IAG Cargo built a network of over 340 scheduled flights per week. These were built around our customers’ needs and tailored to the most important cargo flows, including pharma and PPE and medical equipment shipments.