Airlines that for decades augmented international passenger travel businesses with freight operations using space in the bellies of aircraft are trying something new because of the pandemic: cargo-only flights, CNBC reported.
The logic behind the development is straightforward. Not enough humans are flying internationally to justify numbers of flights. Fewer flights mean less belly space for cargo. Less space for cargo translates into higher rates for cargo to the extent that cargo-only flights of planes that usually carry primarily people make economic sense for airlines.
Shawn Cole, Delta’s vice president of cargo, told CNBC that the air cargo market has been “really strong since April. This year, [peak season] started earlier because people are trying to take advantage of carriers that are still flying.”
In some cases, CNBC reported, cargo rates have doubled.
Citing the TAC Index, CNBC reported that shipments from China cost $5 per kilogram, up 64 percent from a year ago. Similarly, shipments from Europe cost about $4 per kilogram, an increase of 150 percent compared to a year ago.
The shipments include products such as cheese, ham and pharmaceuticals. Botox shipments have spiked, one executive told CNBC.
One merchant, Alex Motamedi, told CNBC: “We’ve been so desperate that we take anything and first available.” Still, he said, some shipments are arriving a month after they usually would.
When American began offering some cargo-only flights early during the pandemic, the flights were the first the airline had offered without passengers since 1984.
In June, airline industry insiders expressed limited optimism as it appeared consumers weary of having been pent-up for three months were eager — and possibly ready — to visit destinations around the world.
Air travel appeared in July to be recovering from the first wave of pandemic-related shutdowns, but the recovery stalled.