Winter 20/21 – Part One – Regional Air Cargo

Aviation expert and advisor, Richard Nanton, writes:

As a panellist last week, at the Caribbean Council’s Economic Recovery Conference Post-Covid, I was asked about the importance of air freight to the Caribbean region.

The use of air freight is essential for the Caribbean, given its geographical position. Air Freight has traditionally entered countries on commercial passenger flights. Without this form of transportation, the Caribbean is at a commercial disadvantage with imports and exports having to pass through airports.

Before 2020 this form of freight, whilst 10 to 12 times more expensive than sea transport, was frequently used by the islands in the Caribbean. A study done in May 2020 by the World Bank showed “The volume of freight attributed to air transport in the Caribbean small states increased over 50% between 2016 and 2018.” (The World Bank Air Transport: Connecting the Caribbean – Tahseen Sayed.) This growth in air freight largely supported by air connections between the region and North, South America and Europe. The impact on air connections by the COVID 19 pandemic seen below. 

The lack of connectivity (IATA Americas Update 23rd November 2020) has not only had an impact on tourism but also the economic trading capability of the Caribbean. Air Freight that would normally arrive on commercial flights is no longer possible due to the fall in commercial flight schedules. Add to this the significant increase in demand for freighter aircraft and the resultant increase in costs of air-freight since the commencement of the global pandemic, and the Caribbean nations are at an economic disadvantage.

Cost in USD/ Kilogram – Dec 2019 to Oct 2020

A small number of aircraft have been converted to “auxiliary” freighters. These aircraft can carry lightweight freight loads but will not be able to take the heavier and outsized more essential loads seen in imports and exports, with the frequencies that the economies of the Caribbean require. 

Aviation is a required mode of transport for the Caribbean region. Without the strategic involvement in the industry, the governments of the area will be held captive to organisations that are solely held privately or supported by foreign governments.

The balance required for the region would be that national governments set the national agenda that aviation bodies will deliver. Then those organisations run as commercially viable entities will support not only the governments agenda on tourism but also trade through the provision of air freight services to support the national economy. The COVID 19 pandemic has laid bare the need for this more than ever before. It is only through a holistic aviation strategy led by governments but supported by private enterprise that the countries will be able to prosper.

Whist commercial aircraft can carry freight loads, they will not be able to carry the heavier and outsized loads with the frequencies that the economies of the Caribbean will require. This area of the aviation industry is a key enabler for the development of Caribbean economies and as such would need to be part of a governmental strategy for the development of the individual countries. 

Call to Action

The Caribbean Council is collaborating with Airline Transformation Department, a group of airline & airport experts which NAC Ltd is a member. They are ready to help Caribbean carriers thrive. Write to or visit our website at to make it happen.

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About the Author

Richard Nanton is an experienced aviation industry expert with over 30 years’ experience in the industry. Born in Trinidad and Tobago with close family ties to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Richard has held senior managerial roles across the globe and has gained experienced in managing Flight Operations in carriers such as Easyjet, Thomas Cook, Qatar Airways, and GoAir. Richard is still a practising pilot, whilst also being a consultant, offering advice on the development of Flight Operations and Organisational Development.