East Midlands Airport – a gateway for essential goods in unprecedented times

  • East Midlands has continued to operate over half of its scheduled flights – more than any other major European Airport.
  •  Cargo flights up 7.4%, driven by medical equipment and online orders

New figures today show the critical role that East Midlands Airport (EMA), home to the UK’s largest dedicated air cargo operation, has in keeping goods moving into Britain during the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the week immediately following the Government’s announcement about stricter social distancing measures (16 March), the number of cargo aircraft movements increased by 10% at EMA. Across the two weeks to 29 March, cargo aircraft movements increased by an average of 7.4% a day.

This growth has been driven by:

  • a sudden need for more urgent medical and PPE equipment, including facemasks
  • more ad-hoc flights as EMA takes on additional capacity from other airports that are now closed at night, together with a reduction in long-haul passenger flights from other UK airports which would normally carry urgent cargo alongside passenger luggage
  • strict social distancing measures leading to more people shopping online and ordering goods for home delivery, many of which come from overseas stockists
  • increased operations by well-established carriers that have the infrastructure and broader international network supply chains in place at East Midlands Airport

The latest European air traffic statistics, published by Eurocontrol, show that EMA has seen the smallest drop in flight numbers of any major airport in Europe over the last week, followed by Bergen, Stavanger and Cologne.

Here in the UK, every other major airport last week saw aircraft movements fall by at least 60% compared with the same week last year. East Midlands, on the other hand, has bucked this trend and continued to operate 60% of its scheduled flights. Unlike most airports, however, the aircraft operating out of EMA have been filled with products rather than people.

While passenger flights have been hit hard due to restrictions on overseas travel, cargo movements are increasing. EMA is demonstrating its national importance and resilience, bringing critical supplies, like face masks and hospital equipment, into the country at this time of crisis.

In the last two years, more than £200m has been invested into bespoke handling facilities at EMA by the world’s largest logistics companies, establishing it as the UK’s busiest and most important airport for dedicated cargo planes (which carry just cargo and no passengers).

Karen Smart, Managing Director, East Midlands Airport
East Midlands Airport is providing around the clock support to the fight back against COVID-19.
Karen Smart, Managing Director, East Midlands Airport

Positioned only a four-hour truck drive to 90% of the population of England and Wales, EMA’s central location means vital supplies flown into the UK can be with those who need them most urgently very soon after landing, wherever they are in the country.

Employees at the airport, alongside logistics giants DHL, UPS, FedEx and Royal Mail, have been designated as key workers by Government and are working around the clock to ensure next-day-deliveries many of which are essential items for hospitals, shops and people isolated at home. Between them, they’re handling over 1,000 tonnes a day.

EMA has always been an engine of growth in the UK, supporting tens of thousands of jobs, adding over £1bn to the regional GVA, and handling around £40bn of international trade. However, at these challenging times, the airport is proving to be more important than ever, providing a lifeline to businesses, society and the economy.

Karen Smart, East Midlands Airport’s Managing Director, says: “East Midlands Airport is providing around the clock support to the fight back against COVID-19. It is at times like these when EMA really demonstrates its national value and shows how important airfreight is to keeping Britain moving. The airport is a vital lifeline for businesses that need to get products to market quickly, the NHS frontline, and those R&D companies that are working flat out to develop new medicines which can help combat crippling viruses such as Covid-19.

“Our location means that we’re perfectly placed to serve a huge population, some of whom are in urgent need of rapid deliveries. We are still open for business 24 hours a day and so the role we play in the coming weeks and months will only step up a gear as EMA and our onsite logistics partners act as the gateway to the UK for essential goods.”