With much of the world avoiding high streets and staying at home, Brussels Airport saw record levels of air freight in 2021. This was largely down to people shopping online and the fact that the airport is a European hub for Covid-19 vaccines.
In 2021, 843,140 tonnes of freight were transported by carriers using Brussels Airport – a 30% increase from 2020, according to a statement released by the airport. The 2021 growth was “the largest ever achieved at Brussels Airport,” Arnaud Feist, chief executive of Brussels Airport, said in a statement.
All means of shipping air cargo – in the belly of commercial airliners or on cargo planes – increased from 2020. Brussels Airport highlighted the full-freighter air cargo segment as performing especially strongly.
“Our cargo division has seen unprecedented growth, with volume increasing by 30% compared to 2020. The demand for air cargo was exceptionally high, and thanks to our investments, digitisation and our strong cargo community, Brussels Airport was able to handle this growth with ease.”
Last year, 276,732 tonnes of freight passed through Brussels Airport on cargo planes, more than double the 135,5360 tonnes air cargo the airport handled in 2019 before the pandemic.
Pharmaceuticals represented a significant portion of the air cargo passing through Brussels. The airport was the main hub for the export of Covid vaccines in Europe. More than 800 million vaccines were transported through Brussels Airport in 2021, Feist said.
However, some of the increases in cargo plane usage could be explained by the drop in capacity of belly cargo on commercial flights. This is simply down to the fact that there were fewer passenger planes and therefore less possibility for these to transport cargo.
In 2021, the 97,047 tonnes of cargo passing through Brussels Airport in the belly of commercial airliners was an increase of 32% from 2020. However, last year’s belly cargo totals are still far below the pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, 158,435 tonnes of belly cargo passed through Brussels Airport.