Lithuanian Airports have seen an increase in air freight handled during the Covid-19 pandemic. Cargo volumes handled from January through March were greater than in the same period in 2019. During the ongoing health crisis, a significant amount of medical equipment was shipped into the country by air cargo carriers.
According to the data processed by Lithuanian Airports, 4 467 tonnes of cargo were handled in Q1 – a 17% increase over the same period last year. Vilnius Airport handled the most cargo in the airport network – 3 663.8 tonnes, or 20% more than in Q1 2019. Kaunas Airport handled 802.3 tonnes (4% more), and Palanga Airport – 0.9 tonnes, or 30% more than in the equivalent period last year.
While the month of March was especially tough for the aviation industry amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, Lithuanian Airports handled 13% more freight than in March 2019. In March 2020, 1 552.8 tonnes of cargo were handled, an increase from 1 375.7 tonnes handled in the same month last year.
Movements of cargo aircraft have remained stable in the first quarter of this year. On average, Vilnius Airport handles seven, Kaunas Airport – six cargo flights per day, a number persistent with the same period last year. Palanga Airport – the smallest air gateway in the network – mainly handles occasional or ad-hoc freight flown on board passenger of military aircraft.
According to Aurimas Stikliūnas, Head of Aviation Services at Lithuanian Airports, the shipment of medical equipment into the country significantly impacted the cargo volumes handled in Q1.
“The need for medical equipment and the necessity to receive other ordered goods reliably and on time meant an increase in handled air cargo. An estimated 450 tonnes of medical equipment already reached the country on board specially chartered cargo flights. Vilnius and Kaunas airports were the main gateways for these medical deliveries to enter Lithuania”, - states Mr. Stikliūnas.
In this extraordinary time period, Lithuanian Airports saw the arrivals of not only usually handled cargo aircraft like the Boeing 757-200F or Airbus A330-200F. During the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, Vilnius and Kaunas airports handled aircraft more rarely seen at our airports, like the Airbus A330-300, Airbus A310-300F, Boeing 767-200F, Boeing 747-200F or the Boeing 747-400F. Repurposing passenger aircraft for solely cargo purposes was not a common practice in the past, but in these extraordinary circumstances, the timely delivery of medical supplies is of key importance.
About Lithuanian Airports
The network of Lithuanian Airports comprises of three air gateways in Vilnius, Kaunas and Palanga. In 2019 they all served 6.5 million passengers and 62 thousand flights. During the 2019/2020 winter season, 15 airlines performed flights from Lithuanian Airports on 76 regular routes, comprising 51 cities in 26 countries.