… states Steven Verhasselt, VP Commercial Liege Airport in this guest article. Mr. Verhasselt stresses in his contribution that LGG has erected a pop-up handling facility as reaction to increased freighter flights and steadily rising volumes, in order to cope with additional charter request and ease the critical ground handling situation.
Freighter operators stick to their preferred hubs
The global spreading of the virus, the fact that Belgium as a country and Liege Airport as a working environment got hit as well, was new to us. Meanwhile, global passenger operations have come to a near shut down. Freighter operators looked to their preferred freighter hubs first, as everything is in place there to handle the full scheduled freighters and the charter demands. From Eastbound Europe – China, charter request are now China – Europe, Europe – Africa, Europe – Americas as far as the LGG platform is concerned.
Fewer staff have to shoulder more work
Capacity only runs so far, and our staff got hit as well. The number of absentees climbed over 20%. This has been covered with people working harder than ever, and temporary labour brought in. Today, we turn at around 120% of the normal in wide body freighter operations, with less than 80% of the staff. The demands for more charters and more capacity are still there. From Saturday 11th of April, thanks to the support of WFS, Air Bridge Cargo, Aeroservices and many others, we managed to put up a temporary ‘pop up handling facility’ in place, that can serve additional charter request and add the critical handling capacity. A great example of fast decision taking during these challenging times for business: on Friday 11 April Liège Airport (LGG) & partners launched a Pop Up Handling facility to increase the airport capacity for bringing in medical supplies as Belgium & Europe are fighting COVID-19. For more pls visit:
High capacity demand for cargo transports
Due to the passenger operations standstill, slots are plentily available at passenger centred airports and they have thrown their doors wide open for freighter operations. We see the same response from airlines. Passenger aircraft are now mini-freighters. We salute those efforts, as the need for capacity is there.
The faster all the necessary medical supplies reach their final destination the faster things can go back to normal.
It is not a lasting solution, but it helps for now to supply additional capacity that is being looked for so eagerly.
Eased freedom rights for cargo ops
On a regulator level, the difference between freighter operations and passenger operations has been recognized. While passenger operations have been restricted, restrictions for freighter operations have been lifted. The temporary measures include 5th and 7th freedom rights for cargo operations, the rules for slot allocations have been lifted.
Crews have been exempted from the quarantine rules.
Last, but not least, customs procedures for medical supplies have been simplified and sped up.
This has definitely helped Liege Airport, as well as other Belgian and European Airports, to accommodate the requirements from its operators.
Production tends to come back home
It is hard to predict what comes next. All the budgets, predictions and expectations have been adapted, changed, remodified, and now put away for later.
I do believe that the importance of freighters, and freighters hubs, has been emphasized. I do hope the differentiating in operational restrictions, especially for traffic rights, is here to stay. But I also believe, in the long run, that the call to review the supply chain, and the call to keep production of essential goods closer to home, will be answered. This will have an impact on our industry.
Many little heroes
I am extremely proud of every member of the Liege Airport Cargo Community, and every member of the Global Cargo community, who is still coming to work every day.
I fully support the applause and admiration for the first line staff in hospitals and medical care. But without the efforts of everyone in our business, they would need to fight this war against COVID-19 without the necessary supplies.
My respect goes to all those essential workers still coming to the airport to do their job, as well as to all the truck drivers and warehouse staff helping to get it all to the places where it is needed most.
This report was contributed by Steven Verhasselt of Liege Airport
Explanatory note from the CFG team: We thank Mr. Steven Verhasselt for this contribution, delivering in depth insights into Liege Airport’s current challenges to manage the air freight business as best it can be.