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East Midlands Airport (EMA), home to the UK’s largest dedicated air cargo operation, is playing a critical role in keeping goods moving into Britain during the Covid-19 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 percent at EMA. Across the two weeks to 29 March, cargo aircraft movements increased by an average of 7.4 percent 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.

In the UK, every other major airport last week saw aircraft movements fall by at least 60 percent compared with the same week last year. East Midlands, on the other hand, has bucked this trend and continued to operate 60 percent 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 £200 million 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).

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