The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed air travel demand, leaving cargo as light at the end of the tunnel for big airlines.
On this list is Kenya Airways, which has finalized the conversion of its Boeing 787s for cargo business, with a maximum capacity of 16 tonnes.
Many international airlines have been redesigning their passenger planes in response to the growing demand and need for increased cargo capacity.
With fewer passenger planes in the air, there is less room for freight that is usually transported in their holds.
This has pushed up demand for cargo jets to help handle the boom driven by online shopping, vaccine distribution and just-in-time supply chains.
Airlines shift to cargo as passenger numbers fall
Demand has been surging for cargo planes since the pandemic started. According to the International Air Transport Association(IATA) Cargo chartbook, Cargo traffic has risen again, providing a lifeline for airlines.
IATA says that the lack of belly capacity impacts cargo capacity as international passenger traffic has not improved.
Those carriers with more cargo capacity have done better in terms of flown volumes.
Cargo yields have begun to rise again in October 2020 as the cargo peak season starts, leading to record-high cargo revenues that provide welcome support to overall airlines revenues.
African airlines topped the growth chart both in 2020 overall and in December. Their international Cargo Tonne Kilometers( CTKs)increased by 1.9% year-on-year in 2020, the only region to accomplish this feat.
In December 2020, the same metric grew by 6.3%. This has allowed African airlines to catch up with Latin American carriers; in 2020, both had similar shares of global international CTKs, at 2.4%.
A report by Sanford C. Bernstein, a US Research and Investment Banking firm, says passenger to freighter conversions have grown in recent years.
Many carriers, such as KQ, are temporarily converting some passenger jets to freighters.