Freight has continued to operate at the airport since the start of the epidemic. Some airlines have made unprecedented transformations to their passenger aircraft in order to transport tonnes of goods and medical equipment in both the hold and the cabin.
Aircraft are landing at Genève Aéroport on a daily basis to supply companies and shops in the region with goods. Though activity has, unavoidably, slowed, it has not by any means ceased. The numbers even suggest a resumption of activities. Between the last week in March and the last week in April, air freight went from -65% to -30% (in terms of tonnage) compared to the same period last year. « I think we’ve passed the crest of the wave », said Samer Jrab, Freight Director at Genève Aéroport. « The month of May should start to see some improvement. Client demand is increasing and we can see that activities are slowly starting to resume ».
Express delivery services, like DHL, Fedex and UPS, are also continuing to operate. Indeed, they have even recorded positive figures for a couple of weeks in April, boosted by e-Commerce sales and the importation of products that would ordinarily be transported via road or sea.
Manufacturers, no longer able to rely on their usual importation routes, have taken the exceptional measure to charter flights to transport the products they need for their factories.
Cargo flights from China
Since the start of the epidemic, Genève Aéroport has also hosted a large number of wide-body aircraft cargo flights from China. These aircraft carry the tonnes of medical equipment Switzerland needs to deal with Covid-19. Airlines, such as Swiss, are using passenger aircraft as cargo aircraft. They are doing this by attaching boxes onto the cabin seats. Rather than grounding their aircraft, these unprecedented transformations are enabling the airlines to secure a certain degree of profitability.
Some airlines, like Ethiopian Airlines, are guaranteeing increasingly regular connections with Geneva to meet freight demand. Indeed, the company announced the resumption of its twice weekly flights between Addis-Ababa and Geneva (operated by a Boeing 787) from 14 May. Other airlines have touched down at Genève Aéroport for the first time, like China Eastern. Since 13 April
, the airline has been landing in Geneva almost daily, with between ten and twenty tonnes of medical equipment in its hold and cabin. On board: masks, gowns, gloves, infrared thermometers and even face shields destined for medical institutions in the region, companies and the general public. These flights are scheduled to continue until the end of May.
Cargolux, for its part, made a second medical flight on 23 April. This large, cargo-only aircraft transported 70 tonnes of medical equipment – mostly gloves and masks – from China and destined for hospitals.