Qatar Airways Cargo division handled 1.49mn tonnes in 2019-20, up 2.8% on the previous fiscal, according to the national airline’s annual report.

This was in part due to the fact that the cargo carrier transported significant amounts of relief cargo between January and March 2020 to support the global demand due to Covid-19.

The airline also placed an order for five new Boeing 777 freighters at the Paris Air Show, adding to a further five B777 freighters, which joined the fleet in 2019-20. The expansion of the Qatar Airways Cargo network continued with the addition of Singapore as a stop on its highly successful transpacific freighter route connecting Asia to North America.

In November 2019, Qatar Airways Cargo further expanded its freighter network in South America, with the new destinations of Bogotá, Colombia; Campinas, Brazil; Lima, Peru; and Santiago, Chile.

In addition, the carrier added Osaka, Japan as a new freighter destination in January 2020. The airline also launched eight new belly-hold cargo destinations during the financial year 2019-20, as well as increasing belly capacity on several routes.

In recognition of its market leadership, Qatar Airways Cargo was named "International Cargo Airline of the Year" at the STAT Times awards during the Air Cargo India 2020 air freight trade show. This prestigious accolade is awarded to carriers that have made immense progress and introduced innovations in the air freight industry, while investing in and enhancing customer experience.

When the impact of the travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic began to be realised in the first quarter of the 2020 calendar year, the resulting reduction in passenger numbers led to aircraft flying with greatly reduced load factor. This also led to the cancellation of flights to many destinations, which affected belly-hold cargo capacity. The disruption started in China first and slowly spread throughout the world, resulting in Qatar Airways Cargo losing almost 5,000 tonnes of cargo capacity each day in China alone and later rising to a loss of 7,500 tonnes each day on the Europe-US trade lane.

“Only the most innovative and flexible airlines were able to adapt and continue to serve their customers, ensuring global trade continuity. Qatar Airways Cargo was able to quickly adjust to the situation and compensate for the loss of capacity,” the annual report said.

By utilising its fleet of 28 freighters to play a critical role in the fight against the pandemic, Qatar Airways Cargo was able to add more capacity to countries where essential food and medical supplies were required, while also continuing its scheduled operations.

Furthermore, since the pandemic began, Qatar Airways Cargo has operated more than 500 freight charters utilising freighters and freight-only passenger aircraft to transport more than 40,000 tonnes of essential aid, medical supplies, food and live animals among other cargo.

As the airline continues working closely with governments and NGOs around the world to fight the spread of Covid-19, its cargo division will maintain its critical role in supporting the continuity of global trade as well as delivering essential supplies to affected communities.