A planeload of chilled seafood, lamb, and wine winged its way north to Singapore from Adelaide this week. The Singapore Airlines flight on Wednesday was the first of six special freight flights. It comes as suppliers and airlines scramble to plug holes in supply chains disrupted by widespread flight cancelations and suspensions.
Singapore Airlines flies out some tasty supplies
The first flight, operated by a Singapore Airlines A350-900 aircraft, pushed back from its bay at Adelaide Airport mid-morning yesterday. Onboard was 30 tonnes of seafood, lamb, poultry, eggs, cider, and wine. From Singapore, the supplies will be shipped to Hong Kong, China, the United States, Vietnam, and Thailand.
Top shelf South Australian produce and wine are typically in hot demand in overseas markets. The cargo holds of regularly scheduled passenger flights from Adelaide Airport usually fly these supplies out. But international passenger services into Adelaide have almost evaporated in recent months.
Australian Government underwrites essential freight-only flights
Yesterday’s flight was the first of six freight-only flights to operate out of Adelaide that are being underwritten by the Australian Government. The multi-million dollar program is designed to ensure local suppliers maintain access to export markets.
“Around 90% of our air freight, usually goes out in the bellies of passenger aircraft. With very few international passenger flights leaving Australia at present, our exporters are facing major hurdles,” said Australia’s Trade Minister, Simon Birmingham, in a statement carried by TGL.
Under the government-backed scheme, over a dozen airlines and freight forwarders have signed up to facilitate the export of fresh produce and seafood.
Airlines in on the deal include Qatar Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Virgin Australia, Federal Express, Emirates, Japan Airlines, and Singapore Airlines.
“During these unprecedented times we are pleased to be able to work closely with the South Australian Government, the Federal Government and other key stakeholders to provide connectivity that would keep key trade and supply chains open,” said Simon Goh, Singapore Airlines Regional Vice President, South-West Pacific.
The Premier of South Australia, Steve Marshall, got on board, giving the subsidized program a boost. In a statement carried by 7News, he said,
“Today marks a real turning point for South Australia’s exporters who have been struggling with the impacts of coronavirus.”
Freight from Adelaide Airport relies on regularly scheduled passenger flights
In a typical year, about 60,000 tonnes of freight goes through Adelaide Airport. The airport notes about 63% of domestic air freight and 94% of international air freight come and go in the cargo holds of passenger aircraft. It’s an arrangement that works for both the airlines and exporters.
Cargo helps underwrite otherwise marginal passenger services to a secondary Australian capital city airport. For local exporters, regularly scheduled services means reliability and allows for forward planning.
In straight dollar values, South Australia’s biggest exports are wheat, wool, and wine. These are bulky and heavy products that usually go by sea. But South Australia also does a brisk trade in perishable agricultural and fisheries produce. Fresh Coffin Bay scallops and Robe lobster commands big prices but needs to get to markets within hours rather than weeks.
The absence of regular international passenger flights from Adelaide threatened to wipe out many businesses in these industries.
The government-subsidized freight flights provide a lifeline for these businesses and industries. They also provide a handy fill-up for airlines. Even the mega carriers like Singapore Airlines appreciate all the business they can get these days.
The next all-freight flight out of Adelaide is scheduled for next Wednesday.