The European Commission issued a new guidance calling on member states to ensure that essential freight such as medical supplies or sanitary goods keeps moving by air 24/7/365. To enable the constant flow of goods, member states are advised to temporarily remove night flight bans and/or slot restrictions at airports for essential air freight operations, Transport Commissioner Adina Valean’s instruction reads.
Air freight, a grubby child, who for years played a rather marginal role in the awareness of most politicians and the general public, is all at once in the spotlight and enjoys a new appreciation. Put there by the EU Commission that has suddenly discovered its passion for this mode of transport.
A swift and unexpected political U-turn from disregard to homage, triggered by Covid-19. Evidenced by the guidance in which all member states are called to do their utmost to ensure the continuity of air cargo operations. “They play a vital role in the quick delivery of essential goods, medicines, medical equipment and supplies, organs, or other substances of human origin. More generally, air cargo is keeping global supply chains functioning for many of the most time-sensitive and high value materials and is a critical complement to the transport of freight by land and sea,” Mrs. Valean acknowledges in the guidance’s subchapter ‘Importance of Air Cargo’.
The end of night flight bans – at least temporarily
On the operational level, Brussels recommends that the EU member states take action by quickly introducing a number of key measures to keep cargo running as best as possible, for instance:
- Temporarily removing night curfews or slot restrictions at airports for essential air cargo operations
- Facilitating the use of passenger aircraft for cargo-only flights
- Encouraging that cargo and express airlines exceptionally reserve capacity for the supply of medical and emergency supplies, and apply reasonable shipping rates for such supplies
- Granting all necessary authorizations and permits for cargo transports from outside the EU, including temporary traffic rights for additional cargo operations
- Ensuring that air cargo crew as well as ground handling and maintenance personnel are exempt from containment measures
- Supplying ramp personnel with appropriate and sufficient hygiene products and providing staff with guidance on health precautions in an air cargo environment
- Ensuring that air cargo crew as well as handling and maintenance personnel are qualified as essential workers in cases of lockdown or curfew.
Abuse could become costly
Finally, the EU Commission’s guidance also issues a stern warning to all those who intend to capitalize on the COVID-19 implications on air transportation through any legally doubtful or forbidden practices.
“Authorities will not hesitate to take action against air cargo operators taking advantage of the current situation by cartelizing or abusing their dominant position,” point 13 of the declaration emphasizes in cold print.
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