Freight carriers reap the benefits of the coronavirus slowdown in air transportation

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Not all airlines are in shock from the coronavirus pandemic. Freight airlines are taking advantage of the rush for medical supplies and other goods, marking a reversal of fortune for the sector on the heels of its worst year in a decade.

As passenger demand plunges as Covid-19 spreads around the world, airlines have stored about two-thirds of the world’s fleet of about 26,000 planes until mid-April, according to the consulting firm. aviation Ascend by Cirium based in the United Kingdom.

This meant a tightening of space as passenger planes regularly transport everything from mail to fresh food to pharmaceuticals in the belly of planes.

Air cargo volumes worldwide fell more than 15% in March from the previous year, but capacity fell 23%, said the International Air Transport Association.

Some freight carriers are taking advantage of this.

Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings announced on Thursday that it had reached a profit of $ 23.4 million in the first quarter, following a loss of nearly $ 30 million in the same period a year ago. Executives were optimistic about strong demand in the second quarter. Stocks of the cargo airline that flies for Amazon and others rose about 6% in midday trade and rose about 47% in the second quarter.

The company said in a statement that it expects adjusted second-quarter net income to increase by up to 50% from the first quarter. He also announced an agreement with his pilots for 10% pay increases after a long battle with their union.

Air Transport Services Group, another subcontractor to Amazon, which also offers charter flights, announced Tuesday a nearly 12% increase in its revenues in the first quarter compared to the previous year. According to FactSet, ATSG posted net earnings of $ 133.7 million for the first quarter, compared to $ 22.6 million in the first three months of 2019. Its title declined slightly on Thursday but increased by approximately 16 % in the second quarter so far.

The results are in stark contrast to the four largest US passenger airlines, which posted their first quarterly losses in years last month, as demand for travel to the United States fell by more than 90%, due to the viruses and measures to keep it at bay, such as on-site command shelters.

United shares have fallen about 25% since the end of March, Delta is down 23%, the southwest has dropped 28% and American is down about 21%.

These airlines, however, quickly moved to operate cargo flights only in the face of a passenger shortage. The American, for example, seeing a high demand for medical supplies, made his first scheduled flight in March carrying only cargo since 1984.

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