The cargo segment is booming in the coronavirus crisis. Whilst passenger transport continues to be severely impacted by the pandemic, the volume of air cargo handled by Cologne/Bonn has seen steady growth rates in double figures since August of last year. During the first quarter of 2021, cargo volume at Cologne Bonn Airport rose by 25 percent to a figure of 235,580 tonnes, achieving the highest increase in the last ten years.
In the month of March alone, the record high of last December was topped with a volume of more than 87,800 tonnes of air cargo, setting a new historical record. Compared to the same month in the previous year, express cargo companies UPS, FedEx and DHL transported around a quarter more goods and the general cargo airlines almost fifty percent more.
"Cologne Bonn Airport is one of the largest and most important hubs worldwide when it comes to express shipments and international deliveries," says Johan Vanneste, President and CEO of Flughafen Köln/Bonn GmbH. "We are pleased to be able to play our part in these difficult times by ensuring that people are supplied with the goods they need, and fast, whether it be coronavirus tests, vaccines or any other items.
The increase in tonnage is due, on the one hand, to the role that air cargo is playing in the worldwide transport of medical goods, protective equipment and vaccines and, on the other, to the increasing importance of e-commerce. In addition to this, due to the reduced number of passenger flights, there is a corresponding deficit in terms of the capacity for cargo which is normally provided by passenger aircraft.
All of these factors have led to an increase in demand for air cargo and thus to additional flights, as well as a higher level of utilisation of the aircraft being used. In the first quarter of the year, for example, an average of three tonnes more goods were transported per aircraft and there was an increase in particular in the number of flights on inner-European routes and to the American express air cargo hubs of Louisville, Kentucky and Memphis, Tennessee.
An additional factor which contributed to the growth in our cargo business was the number of new cargo customers who started using Cologne Bonn Airport more frequently during the last year. For example, in April, Neos Air was transporting consignments of medical goods from Beijing to the Rhineland region in "passenger freighter", each carrying up to 40 tonnes of cargo. “Passenger freighter” are passenger aircraft that are being used solely to transport cargo. As well as carrying cargo in the aircraft's hold, the passenger seating area is made use of too. Furthermore, a long-standing partner has recently returned to Cologne/Bonn – cargo airline Coyne Airways. In mid April, Coyne Airways started operating weekly return flights from Cologne/Bonn to Tblilisi. Overall, air cargo volume increased significantly in the first quarter compared to the previous year to 86,516 tonnes (+ 38 percent).
"Apart from passenger transport, the cargo business is our second main source of income and it gives us some stability in difficult economic times such as these. We are expecting a continuation of the positive trend in our cargo business in 2021, with more than 900,000 tonnes of goods," Johan Vanneste continues.