Emirates SkyCargo has announced that, owing to “extraordinary” times, along with significantly reducing UK capacity, it has cancelled all contract/modified rate sheets from next Wednesday, 25 March.

The carrier is to serve the UK with five passenger flights a day and a freighter twice weekly, it said. It will operate two flights into Heathrow, and one flight a day each into Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. But the schedule is open to review.

The carrier is suspending all services from Newcastle, Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh until 30 June.

It said bookings would be on a first-come-first-served basis, but that foodstuffs and pharma would be prioritised.

All air waybills after 26 March will be priced at “UK standard tariff levels (per product code) or above, until further notice,” it said, and added that the new schedule would likely be in place until the end of June.

One UK forwarder told The Loadstar: “All contract rates are out of the window – which is basically in line with all other carriers in every territory globally now. It’s pay to play.

“These flight cancellations will have a huge impact – that’s a cancellation of 105 flights a week, with average bellyhold of 15 tonnes, between the 777s and A380s they operate.”

Demand is still there, he added.

“Goods are still moving on export and import, although slowing on inbound for retailers and manufacturing. If consumers aren’t consuming, then there is no point stacking the shelves, unless it is food or toilet paper.”

He pointed to car manufacturers like BMW, Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Ford, shutting plants across Europe and North America, which would no longer need components.

Getting the capacity and demand balance right is not going to be easy, he said, but increasing numbers of US and European airlines are putting on passenger flights for cargo.

American Airlines has announced a series of cargo-only flights from Dallas to Frankfurt, starting today, with a 777-300, for two round-trips over four days. It marks AA’s first scheduled cargo-only flight since 1984, when it retired the last of its freighters.

It said the flights would be carrying medical supplies, mail, telecoms equipment and e-commerce.

AA is still carrying cargo domestically, said Rick Elieson, president of cargo. “We have a critical role to play in keeping essential goods moving during this unprecedented time, and we are proud to do our part and find ways to continue to serve our customers and our communities,” .

“Challenging times call for creative solutions, and a team of people across the airline has been working nonstop to arrange cargo-only flight options for our customers.”

Cathay Pacific announced this morning it was cutting 96% of its passenger capacity for April and May.

It will operate three flights a week to 12 destinations: London, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Tokyo, Taipei, Delhi, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore and Sydney. Cathay Dragon is still operating to Beijing, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur and it too will operate passenger aircraft for freight.

“While our freighter network remains intact, we are also ramping up our cargo capacity by mounting charter services and operating certain suspended passenger services purely for airfreight to meet cargo customer demand,” said chief commercial officer Ronald Lam.

Meanwhile, Geodis has announced it had launched several air services, and rail alternatives to/from China.

It has weekly round-trips from Frankfurt to Shanghai, as well as flights out of Hong Kong to Europe, and Hong Kong to Guadalajara. And it is offering a four-flights-a-week schedule linking Amsterdam and Chicago.

It also is offering rail services from Xi’an and Chongqing to Hamburg and Duisberg.

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