Vaccines help boost Feb cargo at Brussels Airport

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Building on a successful start to the year, Brussels Airport saw further growth in air cargo volumes, up 21 per cent in February compared to the same period 2020. This growth was achieved despite the sharp decline in belly cargo, which was down -60 per cent compared to February 2020.

Vaccine shipments to and from the logistics area at Brussels Airport are also increasing, as Belgian pharmaceutical companies ramp up Covid-19 vaccine production, with more than 100 flights to over 40 destinations worldwide. The number of vaccine shipments is expected to increase further in the coming months, the airport notes.

The growth in the full cargo segment, 85 per cent, is the result of the arrival of new airlines in the course of 2020. This includes Sichuan, HongYuan, Amerijet, Virgin Atlantic, alongside flights that moved to Brussels Airport in February due to congestion at nearby cargo airports.

Scheduled cargo airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines also saw their volumes through the airport increase compared to last year.

Growth in the integrator segment, up 50 per cent, is explained by the routes DHL Express added to its network in 2020 and by the high demand for e-commerce uplift.

Trucked air cargo also increased, although at a more moderate pace of 4.0 per cent, as a larger volume was transported directly from Brussels Airport due to improved connectivity.

The total volume of cargo handled at Brussels Airport’s logistics platform grew by 17 per cent compared to February 2020, totalling 59,921 tonnes.

Import volumes increased strongly, especially from Asia and North America, the airport says. Cargo volumes to and from Africa are still below last year’s level, mainly due to the lower number of flights operated by Brussels Airlines.

Flight movements
The number of flight movements in February 2021 decreased by 72 per cent compared to February 2020, totalling to 4,633 (compared to 16,538 last year). The number of passenger flights dropped by 85 per cent with the number of passengers per flight averaging 74, compared to 124 in February 2020.

The number of cargo flights increased by 47 per cent, largely due to the high number of additional flights by passenger aircraft used for cargo-only services. Several airlines use these passenger freighters, or ‘freighters’, to provide additional cargo capacity which partially compensates for the suppression of ‘normal’ passenger flights, Brussels Airport notes.

Passenger traffic
Passenger traffic was down by 90 per cent to 165,456 passengers in February, compared to February 2020. This is the lowest number of passengers recorded since the first lockdown in April and May of last year, the airport says. It is also lower than the number of passengers recorded in November 2020, in the middle of the second lockdown.

The ban on non-essential travel imposed by the Belgian government at the end of January had a significant negative impact on passenger traffic at Brussels Airport, says Arnaud Feist, CEO of Brussels Airport. This trend is expected to continue all through March.

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