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Air cargo volumes stay strong despite Covid-19 headwinds

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Cargo volumes increased at Shannon by nearly a quarter to top 3,750 tonnes, while Dublin Airport saw volume slip by 6.4pc to below 29,000 tonnes (stock image)

Cargo volumes increased at Shannon by nearly a quarter to top 3,750 tonnes, while Dublin Airport saw volume slip by 6.4pc to below 29,000 tonnes (stock image)

Cargo volumes increased at Shannon by nearly a quarter to top 3,750 tonnes, while Dublin Airport saw volume slip by 6.4pc to below 29,000 tonnes (stock image)

The Dublin and Shannon airports combined to handle more than 32,500 tonnes of air freight during the second quarter, only 3.8pc lower than a year ago, reflecting strong demand from exporters despite a massive falloff in available flights.

Cargo volumes increased at Shannon by nearly a quarter to top 3,750 tonnes, while Dublin Airport saw volume slip by 6.4pc to below 29,000 tonnes.

The resilient cargo volumes were recorded despite the Covid-19 grounding of many wide-body commercial aircraft that normally are used to ferry cargo in their holds to the US and Middle East. Some exporters here have had to resort to shipping their Irish-made goods by truck and ferry to Heathrow because of reduced carrying capacity on smaller narrow-body jets now being used on some pared-down transatlantic services.

Most of the world's top pharmaceutical and medical devices firms have Irish factories that produce products and ingredients here for global export, much of it delivered by air rather than slower sea cargo routes.

This is driving growth in air freight, which in the first half of this year rose by 5pc to 69,726 tonnes versus the first half of 2019.

The resilient second-quarter figures also reflect a surge in imports of personal protective equipment (PPE), chiefly from China, as the pandemic arrived in Ireland.

Overall, the CSO figures show strong demand for air cargo services, especially amid an unprecedented fall in the number of available flights, particularly in long-haul services to North America, the main destination for many pharma goods.

Aer Lingus says it has kept its limited links running with New York, Boston and Chicago to deliver cargo on aircraft that are carrying less than a tenth of their usual passengers.

The CSO said the number of flights to and from Irish airports in the second quarter fell below 6,400 - more than 67,500 fewer than in the same period of 2019. Its report combined data from Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Knock and Kerry airports.

Cork reported handling six tonnes of cargo, down from 13 tonnes a year ago.

Knock was closed throughout the second quarter. It handled two tonnes' worth in the same period of 2019.

Only 72,000 passengers travelled to Ireland and 90,000 passengers departed during the quarter, down 98.6pc and 98.3pc respectively from April-June 2019.

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