A Singapore Airlines A350-900 passenger jet carrying only cargo departed Adelaide on Wednesday morning carrying more than 30 tonnes of meat, seafood and mining equipment to the airline’s home city.
The flight, the first of six, is part of a new Australian government initiative to underwrite agriculture and fisheries airfreight routes cut off by the coronavirus crisis.
The cargo will make its way to Singapore before continuing on to Hong Kong, Thailand, China, Vietnam and the USA. On its return, it will bring urgent medical supplies to South Australia.
The flag carrier is one of 15 airlines to sign up to the new $110 million “International Freight Assistance Mechanism” (IFAM).
During the pandemic, Singapore Airlines has continued to operate its scheduled 747-400 freighter services to Australia, while adding in a handful of Passenger Aircraft Carrying Cargo only (PACC) and chartered flights.
A further five IFAM-supported PACC flights are planned for operation over the coming five weeks, with the next flight scheduled for Wednesday, 13 May.
Other airlines in the scheme include Qantas and Virgin Australia as well as Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Federal Express, Japan Airlines, Qatar, CT Freight, Schenker Australia, Kuehne + Nagel, Air Menzies International, Toll and DHL Global Forwarding.
The IFAM will initially focus on restoring critical global supply chains for agriculture and fisheries producers, and will work by partially offsetting the cost of airfreight.
Last week, Australian Aviation heard how former air vice-marshal Margaret Staib was appointed as Australia’s first Freight Controller, tasked with kickstarting essential inbound freight including medical supplies.
Minister for Trade Simon Birmingham said, “Maintaining our airfreight capacity is crucial to keeping businesses open and protecting livelihoods through this crisis and will be a critical part of our economic recovery.
“By maximising co-ordination efforts we can ensure our farmers and fishers can get their high-quality produce on flights and into key overseas markets while also bringing back vital medical supplies for Australia.”