The Jakarta Post
Indonesia’s volume of domestic and international airfreight has dropped 39 percent from the average rate as the majority of airlines ground aircraft due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Indonesian National Air Carrier Association (INACA) data shows.
The association recorded a domestic freight volume of 13,558 cargo ton kilometers (CTK) and an international freight volume of 111,464 CTK in March.
Such numbers are a huge decline from the 2019 monthly average of 45,193 CTK and 159,234 CTK for domestic and international freight, respectively.
“As most of the cargo is being carried by passenger aircraft and not freight carriers, cargo capacity has dwindled. We grounded most of our passenger aircraft due to COVID-19,” INACA secretary-general Bayu Sutanto told The Jakarta Post in a phone interview on April 29.
Indonesia’s decreasing air cargo traffic numbers are in line with global trends, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) recording a 15.2 percent decline in global flight demand in March compared to the same period last year, while global capacity fell 22.7 percent.
The severe drop in air freight capacity, which has outpaced the decline in the demand, could cause a severe cargo capacity shortfall, which would disrupt shipments, including of vital supplies needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, IATA said.
“At present, we don’t have enough capacity to meet the remaining demand for air cargo. The gap must be addressed quickly because vital supplies must get to where they are needed most,” IATA director general Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement on April 28.
To ensure delivery of supplies, IATA has urged governments to cut red tape for charter operations, exempt cargo crews from quarantine rules and ensure adequate staff and facilities to process the cargo.
In Indonesia, Bayu said the problem lay more in economic viability than bureaucratic red tape, such as in the transportation of medical supplies such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and pharmaceutical products.
“We have received a regulatory green light to use cabin loading to ship medical supplies. However, the operation isn’t really profitable [for airline companies],” he said.
Looking ahead, IATA also forecast a gloomy projection for the air transportation sector as the World Trade Organization (WTO) predicts a 13 to 32 percent slump in global trade in 2020.
“The recession will likely hit air cargo at least as severely as it does the rest of the economy. To keep the supply chain moving to meet what demand might exist, airlines must be financially viable,” Alexandre said.
In order to maintain airlines’ financial viability, he also underlined that the need for financial relief “by whatever means possible” would remain urgent for airlines.