$16 million dollars are being invested into turning Air Canada’s cargo handling facility at Toronto Pearson International Airport into a state-of-the-art cold chain facility: the latest step in the airline’s cargo expansion strategy.
The airline has long provided quality cargo services, including temperature-sensitive handling out of its core hub in Toronto, but it is the pandemic that has jettisoned its cargo business forward. Going from using CEIV-Pharma-certified handling agents to achieving its own CEIV-Pharma certification in July last year (in the ramp-up to be able to fly COVID-19 vaccines), and being a very early adopter of passenger-cargo flights since March 2020, Air Canada’s cargo business jumped from a single-digit percentage of overall company contribution to making up 43% of its revenue at the end of the second quarter this year. It has also been profiting from recent bottlenecks at U.S. airports. Toronto airport, in particular, saw increased traffic as forwarders looked for alternatives to major delays happening in Chicago and New York. Air Canada Cargo runs truck services from Toronto to those airports, where it operates own personnel and facilities.
Cargo is here to stay – and grow
Reason enough to place a greater emphasis on cargo going forward. Announcing the cold-chain facility enhancement plans, Jason Berry, Vice President, Cargo, at Air Canada, commented: “This is another important step for Air Canada Cargo as we continue to grow our business and invest in our facilities to better serve our customers. Our new temperature-controlled facility, which will be the only one of its kind for a Canadian airline, represents a significant addition to Air Canada's on-site capabilities at Toronto Pearson and to Canadian cold chain logistics. It will also give Air Canada Cargo a strategic advantage at our main hub, which handles more than 60 per cent of all our traffic, and will support the launch of routes to be served by our new freighter aircraft.”
Cool and more
The project aims to “increase and diversify [the airline’s] freight handling capabilities” when it comes to transporting pharmaceuticals, fresh food [the airline transports tons of lobsters each year, to name just one famous Canadian export], and other perishables at its Toronto Pearson International Airport cargo facility. The $16 million facility upgrade, which should be completed before the end of this year, will result in more than 10,000 m² of temperature-controlled areas, including an expanded cooler able to accommodate more unit load devices (ULD) and loose shipments with COL (+2°C to +8°C) and CRT (+15°C to +25°C) temperature requirements, additional racking, as well as an upgraded dedicated area for active temperature control units. “These enhancements are the first step in a multi-year investment plan for the facility and are part of several planned infrastructure investment projects for Air Canada Cargo,” the release underlines.
As is only to be expected from an airline that places such great store by sustainability, (CFG reported), the facility upgrade will include the installation of energy efficient equipment such as “temperature controllers that will constantly monitor the conditions inside the facility and only regulate the temperature as needed” to avoid unnecessary energy consumption. “Rapid roll-up doors will be installed to minimize the energy loss when the cooler is accessed to store or retrieve goods” and throughout the building, the use of LED lights will further minimize energy consumption.
Dedicated freighters, too
Over 11,000 all-cargo flights have been carried out by Air Canada Cargo since the start of the pandemic in MAR20, operated by wide-body passenger aircraft as well as a number of Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft, which have had their seats removed temporarily for the purpose of being able to transport larger freight quantities in the passenger cabin. These were the precursor to the decision to bring in dedicated freighters. Air Canada Cargo commissioned Israel Aircraft Industries to convert eight Boeing 767-300ER aircraft into full freighters, and expects the first of these to enter into service in the last quarter of this year, just in time to support the peak season.
Starting early 2022, it will then serve Miami, Quito, Lima, Mexico City and Guadalajara, out of Toronto, - all strong perishables exporters (fresh fruit, flowers, or fish, for example). With the delivery of the second freighter that year, more destinations such as Madrid, Frankfurt, Halifax, and St. John's will be added to the freighter network. Having its own full freighters will enable Air Canada Cargo to augment its product spectrum to include the transportation of commodities such as automotive and aerospace parts, oil and gas equipment, pharmaceuticals, perishables, and it will aid the airline in matching the rapid rise in e-commerce shipments.
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