Jaisey speaking at the inaugural Cargo DiGi-CO Workshop in 2019
While Covid-19 has decimated the demand for air travel, Changi Airport’s air cargo volumes have been relatively resilient last year. As at the end of 2020, weekly cargo flights at Changi have more than tripled compared to end-2019, to over 950 flights.
To understand the challenges that airlines had to overcome to alleviate the air cargo capacity crunch, Changi Journeys (CJs) sat down with Jaisey Yip, General Manager, Cargo and Logistics Development (CLD), to find out more.
CJs: Can you tell us more about the role of Changi Airport Group’s (CAG) CLD team?
The CLD team is responsible for securing Changi’s air cargo connectivity and developing the business to future-proof our air cargo hub. The team is also involved in the planning of our future air cargo logistics park.
We work very closely with airline partners, industry stakeholders and government agencies to anchor Singapore’s air cargo connectivity and capacity, as well as to jointly develop Singapore’s handling capabilities of key cargo verticals, including but not restricted to pharmaceuticals, perishables and e-commerce.
CJs: What was Changi’s air cargo situation in 2019, and how has that changed in 2020?
2019 had already been a challenging year for the air cargo industry, with trade protectionism and the cyclical downturn of certain industries such as semiconductors. The disruptions to the global airfreight industry and supply chains in 2020 however, was unprecedented.
With global travel restrictions and lockdown measures brought on by Covid-19, Changi’s air cargo traffic, like most other airports, was challenged by both airfreight capacity constraints and weak global merchandise trade.
CJs: So what did airlines have to do to overcome these challenges last year?
Airlines moved swiftly to increase their utilisation of freighter flights and brought older freighter aircraft out of retirement. When both measures still proved to be insufficient, airlines then repurposed some of their Passenger Aircraft for Cargo Conveyance only (PACC). To increase the overall aircraft payload, some airlines even removed all the passenger seats in their cabin.
Between April and December 2020, more than 50 passenger airlines have operated PACC flights into Singapore, transporting cargo to about 90 cities globally. Cargo ferried on PACC flights made up almost a quarter of Changi’s overall cargo throughput last year.
Cargo carriage in the passenger cabin is not without its own complexity. Airlines had to observe restrictions to cargo types, as well as new handling procedures. They also had to work closely with their cargo handlers, SATS and dnata, to formulate Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for PACC operations at Changi, to ensure that all industry and local guidelines have been complied with.
CJs: What were the challenges involved in transporting Covid-19 vaccines, and how did the Changi air cargo hub coordinate these deliveries?