People’s increasing reliance on ecommerce during the pandemic, coupled with a reduction in passenger flights, has driven significant growth in air cargo at the MAG (Manchester Airports Group) owned East Midlands Airport.
The current climate has turbo-charged the shift to online shopping, the impact of which is been felt at East Midlands Airport (EMA). Earlier in the year, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the proportion of UK shopping carried out online rose from 19% in February to almost 33% in April as lockdown restrictions took hold.
Over the summer months, traditionally the quieter time of year for air cargo, volumes at EMA, home to the UK’s largest dedicated air cargo operation, were significantly up on the same time last year. In July and August, EMA saw an increase of 21.2% and 18.5% respectively.
The shift towards dedicated air cargo operations is also being driven by the lack of traditional belly-hold operations, where goods are transported in the baggage hold of passenger aircraft. With many airlines scaling back long-haul passenger operations in recent months, the availability of belly-hold capacity has reduced significantly to key markets, especially on popular routes to the US. For example, during June, July and August there has been an average of 60 additional cargo flights to and from East Midlands Airport and the US and, most notably, a 120% increase in the volume of goods travelling between EMA and JFK airport in New York.
These volumes are eclipsing what would normally be expected during the weeks leading up to Christmas, which is traditionally the busiest time of year for dedicated air cargo and express freight airlines. It comes after the airports played a central role in transporting essential goods during the pandemic, with shipments of vital medical supplies and PPE helping add to the increase in volume.
Group Aviation Director for MAG, Aboudy Nasser, said:
“The last few months have seen a seismic shift in the way we live our lives. While much has been made of the changes to the way people travel, behind the scenes our airports have been leading the charge in helping the logistics sector adapt to rising demand for dedicated air cargo and changes in the way goods are transported. This underlines the vital role MAG airports play in supporting the UK economy as it gets back on its feet, and the critical role of air cargo in moving essential products quickly across the globe. We look forward to continuing our work with this important sector as it prepares itself for ever-increasing demand in the months ahead.”
Scott Knowles, Chief Executive of the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce, said:
The East Midlands has, for centuries, been the epicentre of UK trade. Massively important to all of this is East Midlands Airport (EMA) which sits at the heart of the UK’s thriving logistics sector. The airport is not only an important asset in its own right, but its impact is felt across the whole of the East Midlands, and beyond. Thousands of people are employed in businesses that support the airport’s operation and thousands more jobs are being created in neighbouring developments. As we all look forward to a post-Covid revival, the sectors that have continued to flourish during the pandemic are the ones around which a new economy will be built. The airport, and the logistics operations it facilitates, will be key to our region’s recovery.”
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