Stansted Airport sees huge surge in demand for air freight amid plummeting passenger numbers

A big rise in cargo business at Stansted is in sharp contract to the collapse of passenger traffic

A big rise in cargo business at Stansted is in sharp contract to the collapse of passenger traffic as a result of the coronavirus pandemic Picture: TONY PICK - Credit: Archant

Stansted airport saw cargo volumes soar this year – partly fuelled by a huge surge in online buying amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) said goods handled at both its Stansted and East Midlands airports saw “significant” year-on-year growth.

In stark contrast to the collapse in passenger numbers due to the pandemic, Stansted saw cargo volumes rise by 43.6% in July and 25% in August, which are generally quiet months for air cargo.

Some of this was fuelled by a lack of “belly-hold” on passenger flights, as long-haul passenger operations were scaled back, it said, prompting extra cargo flights to destinations like the US to cope with the increase. Demand was also boosted by shipments of vital medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).

MORE – Region needs Brexit deal ‘to protect it from worst recession in living memory’, warns CBIThe volumes have eclipsed the usual spike in the weeks leading up to Christmas – traditionally the busiest time of year for dedicated air cargo and express freight airlines.

Group aviation director Aboudy Nasser said: “The last few months have seen a seismic shift in the way we live our lives. While much has been made of the changes to the way people travel, behind the scenes our airports have been leading the charge in helping the logistics sector adapt to rising demand for dedicated air cargo and changes in the way goods are transported.

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“This underlines the vital role MAG airports play in supporting the UK economy as it gets back on its feet, and the critical role of air cargo in moving essential products quickly across the globe. We look forward to continuing our work with this important sector as it prepares itself for ever-increasing demand in the months ahead.”

Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, said: “Stansted is generally thought of as somewhere to start your holiday or perhaps a business trip to an ever growing number of destinations across the globe.

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“These figures show its importance for exporters and importers too and how it is increasingly a major contributor to not just the Essex economy but that of the UK generally and why it is so important to businesses in Essex. I congratulate MAG and all at the airport on this achievement and look forward to seeing continuing growth in the future.”

Stansted has seen passenger numbers plummet by about two-thirds amid the pandemic.

The UK aviation sector is calling for urgent changes to UK government’s policies, including a regionalised approach to quarantine, the introduction of a robust testing regime and greater transparency over the methodology being used.

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