Coronavirus: Etihad to provide 'cargo lifeline' to nations hit by travel restrictions

The logistics arm of the Etihad Aviation Group is to ramp up its freighter services to capacity constrained markets

Etihad Cargo is offering a "strategic cargo lifeline" by boosting its capacity to a number of nations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Air cargo has been vital in delivering much-needed medicines and medical equipment and keeping supply chains functioning as nations grapple with the spread of the virus.

And the logistics arm of Etihad Aviation Group said it is increasing capacity to its top freighter gateways, plus countries that have been hit by travel restrictions.

"The network will be expanded to capacity-constrained markets that are wrestling with decreased passenger operations or temporary travel bans in light of the public health emergency caused by the novel Coronavirus (Covid-19), offering a strategic cargo lifeline and supporting the continuity of the global trade ecosystem," it said in a statement.

Its summer schedule, which starts from March 29, will have added weekly freighter flights to Amsterdam, Milan and Paris, while it will double services to Hong Kong to four flights per week.

Hanoi will have a third-weekly service and Singapore a second weekly flight. Services to Johannesburg and Nairobi will rise to twice weekly.

Abdulla Mohamed Shadid, cargo and logistics managing director at Etihad Aviation Group, said the air cargo environment is "evolving daily", and added that additional stringent measures have been put in place to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the company's team.

The International Air Cargo Association (Iata) meanwhile has called on governments to take urgent measures to ensure that air cargo continues to be available.

“Over 185,000 passenger flights have been cancelled since the end of January in response to government travel restrictions," said Alexandre de Juniac, Iata’s director general and chief executive.

"With this, vital cargo capacity has disappeared when it is most urgently needed in the fight against Covid-19. The world’s fleet of freighter aircraft has been mobilised to make up this capacity shortfall."

Iata has asked governments to exclude air cargo operations from any Covid-19-related travel restrictions, and to exempt air cargo crew members, who do not interact with the public, from 14-day quarantine requirements.

The coronavirus situation is the single biggest shock that global aviation has ever experienced, Qantas Airways chief executive Alan Joyce said in a memo to the airline's 30,000 staff on Tuesday that was seen by Reuters.

The UAE has sent two batches of critical medical aid to Iran this month to support the country's fight against the virus.

Two aircraft took off from Abu Dhabi on Monday with more than 32 tonnes of supplies, including thousands of pairs of gloves, surgical masks and protective equipment.