65% reduction in air freight capacity from Africa to Europe
A study of global air freight capacity by Seabury Consulting shows a reduction of 29% worldwide cargo capacity compared to April 2019. About 50% of world air freight used passenger aircraft, and now most of that capacity is grounded in airports worldwide. But if a 29% reduction seems important, the impact is much higher in some regions. There has been a reduction of 65% in cargo capacity from Africa to Europe, and a 90% reduction from Latin America to Europe. This service disruption is causing unprecedented losses, especially for producers of perishable goods who cannot find an alternative to reach their markets.
However, the good news is that this capacity has increased slightly from March to April, as several airlines are transforming their passenger aircraft into freighters. So global capacity decline is currently –29%, compared to –35% last month.
On the other hand, available cargo capacity from Africa to Europe it at its top capacity. Network Airline Services informed COLEACP that it operates four weekly Nairobi–Europe and one weekly Accra–Europe with B747F, capacity 100 tons, however they have no availability. In mid-April, a Kenyan Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger aircraft exported 40 tons of fresh fruits and vegetables to London, UK after it was converted into a cargo plane; and Emirates says that the carrier has helped to export at least 2,500 tonnes of food from Kenya, including fresh fruits such as pineapples and mangoes.
The East African Business Council (EABC) has published a Position Paper on facilitating air cargo operations in the EAC region during the COVID-19 outbreak, calling for extraordinary measures to address the challenges in the region and greater cooperation between East African airlines and the international aviation community, including air cargo and express service providers, to ensure the supply and fair distribution of scarce and essential goods.
Major airlines struggling to survive the crisis
Having airlines grounded for over a month has carried unprecedented economic consequences for the airline industry, with losses counted in hundreds of million, if not billion, euros. Many airlines are trying to get bailouts from their governments, including Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic among others.
African airlines are also struggling as demand has evaporated since measures were put in place across the globe to halt the spread of COVID-19. Air Mauritius is the latest victim of COVID-19 as the company’s board of directors announced that the carrier would be put into voluntary administration (RFI, 22 April). “Unfortunately, travel restrictions and the closure of borders in all our markets and cessation of all international and domestic flights in an unprecedented crisis, has led to a complete erosion of the company’s revenue base,” said a statement from Air Mauritius. Air Mauritius offers an important cargo space for the island. Even if the company has not been declared in bankruptcy, it is not known if they will assure operations following the lockdown.
Namibia’s flag carrier Air Namibia said on Wednesday that it was having cashflow problems, according to local media reports. Air Namibia will delay the payment of salaries of some 700 employees by a week (The Namibian, 22 April). The carrier has suspended its operations until 5 May, but is continuing to offer cargo services, according to its website.
Ethiopian Airlines, the African continent’s largest carrier, is struggling for survival, CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told AFP news agency in an interview. The state-owned carrier is facing revenue losses of 508 million euros from January to April, and might need to secure outside financial help if the crisis lasts for another three months, Tewolde said.
The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA) says that to avoid disaster, Africa’s airlines must use passenger aircraft for cargo (The Loadstar, 28 April). Air freight capacity in Africa is 70% down on that available last year – a “very concerning” situation for pharma and perishables. The lack of capacity in the perishables export market – down from 5,000 tonnes a week out of Nairobi to 1,800 – will have “disastrous effects on the agriculture sector”, it says. “We are encouraging African airlines to respond immediately, in particular by putting passenger freighter systems in place, such as those implemented by Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, SAA and Rwandair,” said Sanjeev Gadhia, TIACA vice chairman and chief executive of Astral Aviation.
The African Airlines Association has prepared a recovery plan, while the Kenyan Government is in talks with stakeholders on the capacity crisis facing the perishables industry. The plan notes: “An end of operations by African airlines would trigger a host of serious financial consequences, while replacing the air service provided by the airlines would be a challenging and costly process.”
TIACA has urged governments and civil aviation authorities to take immediate action to alleviate the situation, suggesting reviewing airport closures or curfew measures; reviewing quarantine measures and the need to standardise requirements and provide dedicated rest areas; lifting night bans on ground staff; reviewing the limitations on cargo flights in some countries; simplifying procedures on the clearance of goods including pharma and food; and putting fumigation processes in place.
Air France KLM Martinair Cargo group maintaining its commitment to Africa
Despite the major disruptions, Air France KLM Martinair Cargo has been working to keep services between major African capitals and Paris/Amsterdam. For example, three additional KLM flights (105 tons) and three additional Air France flights (128 tons) have departed from Nairobi since the beginning of the crisis. In a statement released by the Dutch Embassy in Nairobi on 20 April, the Netherlands expressed its desire to maintain strong trade links with Kenya.
“Starting Tuesday, April 21, and Sunday, April 26, Air France KLM Martinair, Cargo will operate two weekly cargo flights bringing 45–50 tons of cargo from Nairobi to Amsterdam,” (Kenyans.co.ke, 21 April) “For this purpose, KLM Boeing 777-300 passenger aircraft will be used with ample belly capacity. This comes in addition to the existing full freighter flights Air France KLM Martinair is regularly operating.”
Other important African cities have been receiving full cargo flights from the group: three times a week from Harare, Zimbabwe (Martinair); once a week from Djibouti (Air France); four times a week from Johannesburg, South Africa (Martinair); once a week to Antananarivo, Madagascar; and once a week in St Denis, Reunion Island. For more detail see “Information for individual airlines and services” below.
Information for individual airlines and services
For full schedules for Air France KLM Martinair Cargo; Lufthansa, Quatar Airways; Emirates; and DHL, download the file here.
Air France KLM Martinair Cargo states that three additional KLM flights (105 tons) and three additional Air France flights (128 tons) have departed from Nairobi since the beginning of the crisis. KLM Air France is still the group currently serving the most cities in Africa to Europe: Ouagadougou-Burkina Faso, Cotonou-Benin, Abidjan-Côte d’Ivoire, Ndiass-Senegal, Bamako-Bali and Ste Denis-Reunion also receive one or two weekly frequencies of Air France and KLM wide-body belly aircraft that usually carry passengers and cargo, but since the COVID-19 outbreak are serving mainly to export the products of African producers to Europe. For updated schedules check the file download above.
Quatar Airways’ offer has not changed, it is still offering freight service via Qatar from the following cities in Africa: Entebbe (Uganda), Nairobi (Kenya), Johannesburg (South Africa) and Djibouti (Djibouti) with a wide range of cities in Europe, including Brussels, Liege, Luxembourg, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, Prague and London. For updated schedule check the file download.
Emirates’ offer has not changed from last week from Nairobi (Kenya), Entebbe (Uganda), Khartoum (Sudan) and Casa Blanca (Morocco). Flights are via Dubai with connections with major airports in Europe including Brussels, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, London, Madrid, Zurich, Milan, Vienna and Maastricht. A 15% increase in freight rates has been reported. For updated schedule check the file download.
Emirates SkyCargo has utilised the cargo capacity on its Boeing 777 freighter and B777-300ER passenger freighter aircraft to help maintain and replenish food supplies in the UAE during the COVID-19 pandemic. The air cargo carrier has helped import more than 34,000 tonnes of food into the country between January and April 2020, out of which 13,000 tonnes were imported between March and April. This included more than 2,500 tonnes of food from Kenya, including fresh fruits such as pineapples and mangoes.
Kenya Airways has converted four aircraft into cargo, connecting Nairobi to Europe, however prices have been reported at 3 euros per kilogram. KQ said the move was aimed at keeping the airline in operation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has completely crippled the air travel industry globally (Mwakilishi.com, 1 May). CEO Allan Kilavuka said the grounded KQ passenger planes would complement the carrier’s cargo freighters to ferry cargo across the world. Cargo flights remain operational to offer emergency services and supplies during the pandemic.
In mid-April, a KQ Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger aircraft exported 40 tons of fresh fruits and vegetables to London, UK after it was converted into a cargo plane.
DHL: Temporary suspension of services remains to the following destinations: Cuba, India, Guinea Bissau, Mauritius, Mayotte, São Tomé and Principe, Seychelles, Somalia, St Eustatius and Timor Leste. The remaining destinations are still served, but with extended delivery times that can be up to 7 additional business days for Sudan, Zambia or Zimbawe. Also from 1 April there will be an emergency situation surcharge (fixed charge per shipment) as follows:
Chargeable weight (kg) | Charge
Up to 2.5kg | No charge
2.51–30kg | €2.50
30.1–70kg | €15
70.1–300kg | €50
>300.1kg | €200
Ethiopian Cargo is currently making changes in its passenger airplanes to transform some of them to cargo and increase its service capacity. However, cargo prices have risen considerably. A surcharge for more than 5,000 tonnes in their hub at Addis Ababa has been reported, which may cause big delays. If you are using this carrier to transport perishables, make sure they can assure transport to destination.
Bad news again from Lufthansa Group: the new update shows a new delay on the restart of operations of Brussels Airlines. The restart will be possible people are allowed to travel freely from Belgium, so they will not be restarting operation any time soon. They perform occasional charter flights, but not on a regular basis. Lufthansa will be offering connections Germany–Senegal and Senegal–Latin America from the first week of May. For updated schedules check the file download above.
FedEx and TNT are starting to slowly end the temporary suspension as from 1 May in the following countries: Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Niger, Sierra Leone, Togo and Uganda. Detailed information is available here.
Flight operations by country
(Source: based on Bolloré Logistics report, 29 April – very small changes compared with last week)
Algeria Since 19/03, all passengers’ flights to and from Europe are suspended. Freighter flights are operating with minimum services.
Angola Air Freight: Since 20/03, all domestics and international flights have been suspended. Charters are being organised to allow evacuation of residents.
Restriction policies implemented in both Congo and Angola impact corridor PNR/CABs’ capacity to operate.
The usual regular freighter LGG/LAD is still operating, and a contingency pan has been set through two freighters/week ex LSB to LAD (provisional schedule).
To deal with the corridor situation, alternative solutions are currently being discussed. Shipping to LAD also remains an additional option which involves necessary short sea LAD/CAB service.
Benin All flights have been suspended since 20 March, and all airlines stopped their services except for Air France AF (which operates one passenger flight + one cargo freighter/week) and Ethiopian ET (which operates one passenger flight/week).
Botswana No inbound or outbound cargo and no bookings accepted by the airlines. Trucking to Johannesburg JNB. Charter flights ex-JNB possible for essential goods.
Burkina Faso Air freight: All passenger flights have been suspended, putting more constraint on capacity. Cargo flights are still operating. First Bolloré Logistics Charter on 24 April. A contingency plan has been set through AF Cargo on 30 April.
Burundi All passenger flights have been suspended – measure extended until further notice. Cargo flights, sanitary evacuation, humanitarian aid and diplomatic flights are not affected by this government measure and are still operating for some origins/destinations.
Cameroon All international passenger flights have been suspended, putting more constraint on the capacity. A contingency plan has been set up through the Cargo Magma option available on day 4 via Paris CDG hub. There is the possibility to use Royal Air Maroc at 1.60/kg. DHL changed the aircraft and put a small plane on Brussels – 8T of capacity per plane (instead of 13T), and 5 days out of 7 (instead of 6/7).
Central African Republic All passenger flights have been suspended, putting more constraint on capacity. Cargo flights are still operated by DHL. A contingency plan has been implemented through the Block Space Agreement (BSA) cargo option with Allied on Day 3.
Chad Air freight: All passenger flights have been suspended until 25 April, putting more constraint on capacity. Cargo flights are still operated by DHL.
Congo Air freight: From 20 March, all passenger flights from exposed countries have been suspended, putting more constraint on capacity. Cargo flights are still operated by Allied, Magma and DHL. A contingency plan has been set up through the BSA cargo option on Allied available on day 1 via CDG hub.
Côte d’Ivoire Air freight: all passenger flights have been suspended since 22 March. Cargo is still going on, but no plane except DHL and Air France with passenger cargo aircrafts.
Djibouti Air freight: All passenger flights have been suspended. Cargo flights are still operational.
Democratic Republic of the Congo – East Air freight: All flights have been suspended effective 20 March. Cargo flights are still operational.
Democratic Republic of the Congo – West Air freight: All passenger flights have been suspended, putting more constraint on capacity. Cargo flights are still operated by DHL, Turkish Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines.
Democratic Republic of the Congo – South Air freight: All passenger flights have been suspended. Cargo flights are still operating.
Egypt Air Freight: All passenger flights have been suspended. Cargo flights are still operated by DHL, Turkish Airlines and ET.
Equatorial Guinea Air freight: All passenger flights have been suspended, putting more constraint on capacity. Cargo flights are still operated by DHL Cargo (two flights/week) and and Ethiopian ET (one flight/week).
Ethiopia Ethiopian Airlines has suspended passengers’ flights for 80 destinations. ET cargo flights still operating, but cargo capacity reduced due to flight cancellations. No cargo flights on Lufthansa and Emirates.
Gabon Air freight: All passenger national and international flights have been suspended except for flights organised occasionally by the French Embassy, putting more constraint on capacity. Cargo flights are still operated by DHL Cargo and Express via Accra, Allied, Stabo and Ethiopian Airlines. Cargo option Libreville LBV via DHL Day 7, via CDG (Paris) Hub, Port-Gentil (POG) with European Air Transport (QY) block space agreement (BSA) Day 2. Any shipment to Libreville must be subject to mandatory agreement from Bolloré Transport & Logistics minimum 3 days prior loading. Airport staff is operating with minimum services and focusing on essential activities. Specific authorisations and passes are required for Libreville importers. Air France is going to use a passenger aircraft for cargo to Libreville.
Gambia Air freight: All passenger flights have been suspended, only cargo flights are still operating.
Ghana All passenger flights have been suspended from 22 March until further notice. The lockdown was lifted on 20 April.Cargo flights are still operating (DHL, TK and Allied) but delays are to be expected. The restriction also does not apply to emergency flights, technical landings for refuel only, medical evacuation flights. The exempted flights are to seek pre-authorisation from the Ghanaian entities. Capacity from Ghana is currently a big issue since carriers do not have enough space to book all cargo.
Guinea Conakry Air freight: All passenger flights have been suspended. Cargo flights are still operating.
Kenya Air freight: Only cargo flights will be allowed after 25 March but crew must abide by strict controls in place. KLM is adding to flights of passenger aircraft used as carriers in addition to Martinair; alternatives are Kenya Airways, Ethiopian and Qatar.
Liberia Air freight: Except for cargo (DHL cargo flight comes in 5 days weekly), chartered and special flights, all commercial flights are suspended as of 23 March. All flights traveling to Liberia are suspended.
Madagascar Air freight: For air travel, as announced last week, all PAX (passenger) flights are suspended and only Air France and Turkish Airlines serve Madagascar via their weekly cargo flight. Turkish Airlines is operating on Sundays and Airfrance on Thurdays.
Malawi All international flights are suspended except: 1. Flights carrying health personnel, essential health equipment and emergency relief items; 2. Flights carrying returning Malawi citizens and residents or general cargo, both of which will be handled on a case-by-case basis
Mali Air freight: All passenger flights have been suspended. Cargo flights are still operating.
Mauritania Air freight: Closed.
Morocco Air Freight: All passenger flights have been suspended. Cargo flights still operating, and road transport can be a substitute from CMN to CDG.
Mozambique Air freight: Embargo on all passenger flights. Cargo flights are operational, but airlines are closing their offices and limiting flights – flights are only once a week or less, cargo is subject to stay on standby at airport.
Namibia Air freight: Limited flights. Airports are closed with no passengers/cargo. We are awaiting confirmation from the Ministry regarding further restrictions.
Niger Air freight: All passenger flights have been suspended. Cargo flights are still operating.
Nigeria Air freight: All airports closed to passenger international flights; cargo flights still operating. Clearing activities only for essential cargo at the airport to all clearing agents. NAHCO and SAHCO have skeletal staff on ground receiving cargo from freighters to central warehouse and releasing only essential cargo. Customs and authorities on site at a skeletal level to attend to demand on essential cargo release. Note: only cargo where the consignee can provide an exemption letter from Federal Government proving essential cargo status will be handled.
Rwanda Air freight: Embargo on all passenger flights. Minimal operations in place during lockdown. One cargo flight by Rwandair to Brussels and London.
Senegal Air freight: Suspension of all flights to/from Senegal with the exception of domestic and cargo flights, sanitary evacuations and special flights, from 20 March. Turkish and Air France cargo flights restart twice a week (Turkish Wednesday and weekend; Air France Tuesday and Sunday). Lufthansa is starting to operate Senegal; please check available schedules.
Sierra Leone Air freight: 19 March, suspension of all PAX flights. 24 March, business continuity plan in place for logistics in case of external aid oncoming.
Somalia Air freight: Federal Government of Somalia has implemented flight restrictions. International flights suspended for 15 days. AMISOM cargo base closed to all drop-offs except by special application.
South Africa Air freight: Freighters to Johannesburg JNB operating (EY, QR, TK, MP, SV, KL) SAA freighter to Germany. Operations slightly delayed; Fedex – JNB to MEM and over 100 destinations available. Trucking to DBN/CPT/Namibia/Botswana where no flights operating. Charter flights ex-JNB possible for essential goods.
Sudan – Airport customs closed until further notice. Customs operations for medical, food, pharmaceuticals and any emergency spare parts from 07h00 to 13h00.
Sudan – South Air freight: International flights banned effective 23 March with exemption for food cargo flights, humanitarian aid operations including medical and relief flights, and technical lading.
Tanzania Air freight: Operational – Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority has announced suspending all scheduled and unscheduled passenger flights; and permitting cargo flights but crew will be quarantined at designated place by the Government for the duration of their stay.
- Swiss International Air Lines has cancelled all flights from 19 March to 14 April.
- Emirates will suspend all flights worldwide for 2 weeks from 25 March as UAE halts all air travel
- KLM has cancelled all flights for the whole of week 13. New schedule to be issued soon.
- Kenya Airways will suspend all flights from Dar from 25 March to 30 April. They will only operate with cargo flights/freighters subject to volume of cargo.
- Qatar airways will also suspend flights from Dar from 25 March until further notice.
- Bolloré Tanzania is arranging charter/part charter freighters from Europe, China and India to deliver essential supplies to the region.
Togo Air freight: Suspension of all flights except Ethiopian Airlines (import and export) and DHL.
Uganda Air freight: Only cargo flights operational, but limited volumes due to reduced capacity.
Zambia Air freight: Only Ethiopian Airlines operating on PAX and cargo, Stabo air on cargo. Minimal service at airport.
Zimbabwe Air freight: Cargo flights only. Airport operating with minimum staff. Harare office closed, Operations Manager & Sales attending emails from home. Air freight available on call.