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Heathrow Steps Up Cargo Operations


Heathrow calls on industry to use available capacity in fight against COVID-19


The UK’s largest port is ramping up cargo capacity and safeguarding vital supply lines needed to get medical goods and food to the nation as it tackles the global COVID-19 epidemic

Logistics companies have already begun importing key equipment such as COVID-19 testing kits via Heathrow, in preparation for increased demand

Next week, cargo movements are forecast to surge by 53%, compared to the weekly average, as the airport prioritises cargo flights with medical supplies which will assist in the fight against COVID-19

41% of the UK’s pharmaceutical products such as medicines, vaccines and respirators are imported via Heathrow.

Heathrow will be stepping up its cargo capabilities as it calls on more airlines and freight companies to maximise the use of the hub airport’s quieter schedule so that the aviation industry can play its part in the economic and social fight against COVID-19. Air freight will keep vital supply lines open and help to get time-critical and temperature-sensitive goods, such as medical supplies and food across the UK as the country pulls together to battle this pandemic.


Logistics companies have already begun playing a key role in this fight, by importing COVID-19 testing kits via Heathrow, in preparation for increased demand. Next week, Heathrow’s cargo movements are forecast to increase by 53%, as more airlines and freighters use the available capacity to transport goods which will assist in the fight against coronavirus. This figure is set to increase further as the airport scales up its cargo operation. Pharmaceutical products are one of Heathrow’s top imports, with the airport handling 41% of the UK’s pharmaceutical imports (by value). In 2019, over 12,000 tonnes of medical supplies such as medicines, vaccines, sanitisers, syringes and respirators travelled through the airport.


During normal operations, Heathrow is the UK’s largest port by value. 34% of the country’s cargo travels through the airport, with the majority of that cargo (95%) being carried in the belly hold of passenger planes. Whilst passenger travel remains restricted for many, airports will continue to play a key role in keeping the UK’s supply chain alive, for both essential workers and goods. This is why Heathrow will be repurposing its operation and scaling up its cargo offering at this difficult time.


Heathrow is also taking a number of steps to assist the airline industry during this challenging time. These steps include supporting slot alleviation – a relaxation of the rules requiring airlines to use their slots to keep them, 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 during a challenging time for the sector.


Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “This is an unprecedented time for the international community, with COVID-19 requiring us all to work together, adapt and adopt extraordinary measures to quell the spread of this virus. For the first time in a decade, our airport has additional capacity in its schedule, capacity which we’ve begun to see used to help push vital supplies across the globe to help support front line teams in the battle against this pandemic.

“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.”

Medical supplies transported via Heathrow in 2019

Medicines: 10,146 (tonnes)

Immunological Products & Human Vaccines: 1,392 (tonnes)

Soaps & Sanitizers: 221 (tonnes)

Syringes 268: (tonnes)

Ozone therapy, oxygen therapy, aerosol therapy, artificial respiration or other therapeutic respiration apparatus: 830 (tonnes)

Top Image - Loading a Cargo Logic Air Boeing 747-800 (Heathrow Airport)

Below - Cathay Pacific have been among the users of the Boeing 747 Cargo version into Heathrow and all cargo flights are set to play an increasingly important role worldwide over the coming months

(Kevan James)

The airport's history, including the truth behind its origins in World War II, are revealed in

Heathrow Airport 70 Years and Counting, by Kevan James

Details and reviews on the home page

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