With its main passenger business now operating as a skeleton service due to COVID-19, Air Canada is reallocating more of its resources towards expanding its Air Canada Cargo division.
The additional flights are now making time-sensitive shipments around the world, including medical supplies in the fight against the coronavirus and goods to support the global economy.
Using the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, the first cargo-only flights left Toronto earlier this week for Frankfurt, London, and Amsterdam. Other flights are planned for Latin America and South America. Each aircraft can carry 35 tonnes of cargo — equivalent to approximately 80 grand pianos.
These cargo flights will eventually expand to Canada’s smaller and remote communities using the minor Air Canada Express aircraft. The airline states it is working with various government to assess the demand and assist in moving relief goods within the country.
Shippers and freight forwarders are charged a flat rate for both directions, although the airline is also introducing a program that does not require an entire aircraft to be booked.
“Air Canada Cargo has long served as a vital link in global supply chains and with the disruption arising from the COVID-19 pandemic our capabilities are more important than ever,” said Tim Strauss, vice president of cargo at Air Canada, in a statement.
“Although we have announced very significant temporary capacity reductions and our passenger flights are largely dedicated to bringing Canadians home, Air Canada’s aircraft and our expertise in handling cargo are valuable assets that we can use to move medical supplies and other essential goods to keep the world economy going.”
Air Canada is currently flying with less than half of its previously scheduled capacity. It has laid off over 5,000 employees, and furloughed 600 pilots. Another 4,400 pilots have agreed to reduced pay.