Enabling global trade

Airlines transport over 52 million metric tons of goods a year, representing more than 35% of global trade by value but less than 1% of world trade by volume. That is equivalent to $6.8 trillion worth of goods annually, or $18.6 billion worth of goods every day. Find out more interesting air cargo facts (pdf)

Industry response to the COVID-19 crisis

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, air cargo has been a vital partner in delivering much-needed medicines, and medical equipment (including spare parts/repair components), and in keeping global supply chains functioning for the most time-sensitive materials. This has been done through dedicated cargo freighter operations, utilization of cargo capacity in passenger aircraft, and relief flights to affected areas. Click below for more information on the specific areas:

Keeping air cargo flying

See the guidelines on Safe handling of cargo & staff safety during COVID-19 (pdf).

These reference guidelines for ground handlers (pdf) will help all to remain up to date during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We are supporting the industry in executing cargo operations using passenger aircraft to enhance shipper connectivity options. In response to industry inquiries IATA, in cooperation with various stakeholders, has developed guidance on how to safely transport cargo in the passenger cabin with no presence of passengers. 

For additional information, please check the documentation below:

Please note that there are many considerations to be made when loading cargo into the passenger cabin, such as fire protection and suppression, weight and balance, securing of loads and loading limitations, and many more. Refer to the regulatory documentation available and guidance from your State. Also, note that passenger compartments on passenger aircraft may or may not support the transport of dangerous goods in response to shipper needs.

IATA has launched ONE Source, an online platform which helps the air cargo industry match shipping needs with the availability of infrastructure capabilities and certifications of service providers across the value chain.

This is particularly timely amid the COVID-19 crisis when shippers of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals need accurate information for time- and temperature-sensitive shipments. ONE Source lists the latest operational information on airlines, airports, cargo handling facilities, freight forwarders, ground handlers, shippers, and trucking companies. 

Please refer to our COVID-19 - Dangerous Goods Guidance for Operators (pdf) for more information on the transport of specimens of Covid-19 and alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

IATA works with industry and regulators to review the guidelines and prevent restrictions. See the World Organization for Animal Health guidance related to COVID-19.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak the transport of live animals has been challenging globally. The transport of live animals by air guidance document (pdf) provides information on the current variables to be considered when transporting live animals.

Updated guidance on the transport of human remains by air where the cause of death was COVID-19 (pdf) have been developed in conjunction with WHO, CDC, and ICAO. Some airline restrictions exist. Check with the airline in advance.

Due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and the subsequent closure of all but essential businesses and the imposition of social distancing by many governments, the ability to attend or deliver recurrent dangerous goods training is very limited.

In recognition of the lack of available recurrent dangerous goods training, many States have issued temporary extensions to existing dangerous goods training qualifications. Find out more in this document listing the States that have issued temporary extensions (pdf), together with a link to their website that provides the extension.

COVID-19 has an unprecedented impact on the air transport industry.  The global trade of food is critical to ensure the supply of safe and secure food. See the Joint Statement of the Directors-General of FAO, WHO, and WTO calling on governments to minimize the impact of COVID-19 related border restrictions on trade in food.

Please refer to the WHO COVID-19 and Food Safety Guidance (pdf) for more information on the transport of perishables so that the integrity of the food chain is maintained.

IATA guides its members on the ramp-up of e-commerce transport, respecting social distancing and quarantine environments and supporting new shipper channels.

The US Customs & Border Protection has issued guidelines for consumer awareness for safe online shopping during the COVID-19 epidemic. 

Regulatory & operational environment

IATA works with ICAO and other regulatory bodies to ensure air cargo supply chains remain open. We collaborate with the World Customs Organization (WCO) on emergency border contacts to minimize border blockages for humanitarian goods (eg protective clothing, medicines vaccines).

IATA member airlines can access the WCO country-specific information by sending an email. The WCO has also created a specific section on its website compiling relevant customs information and actions in relation to COVID-19.

We have been compiling a list of incoming regulations, requirements, and guidance material impacting air cargo, including those related to the COVID-19 crisis (pdf).

The European Commission issued Guidelines on Facilitating Air Cargo Operations During COVID-19 Outbreak (pdf), enabling cargo to continuously deliver critical products such as food, medical supplies, personal protective equipment and other vital products.

The United States has signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which includes financial support measures for passenger and cargo airlines. 

IATA advocates through ICAO and the states to reduce landing and parking fees associated with cargo to keep supply chains open and medical services flowing. 

IATA advocated for relaxing the slot use rules where restrictions apply, including the suspension of the 80/20. We support the reallocation of slots for cargo and freighter services including prioritizing the use of returned slots for this purpose during the crisis. Find out more about the northern summer 2020 slot alleviation status (pdf).


IATA has advocated for cargo flights to be exempt from state transport restrictions and cargo crew should be exempt from travel and quarantine requirements. Positive support from ICAO and EU.


The quick reference guide for ground handlers (pdf) provides a reference to the various governmental and industry guidelines and updates on the COVID-19 outbreak. As well as some additional information specifically related to the ground handling

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching global effects on cross-border trade, travel, and supply chains. It is essential to make every effort to identify and understand the widespread effects of the pandemic, and to find solutions that respond to current humanitarian, government and business needs, and also provide best practices that could be used to respond to any
future incident of this kind in an internationally coordinated and coherent manner. 

Find out more in the PSCG observations, priorities and principles for the WCO and its Members to consider
at this extraordinary time.

Industry action: join the debate

Many industry stakeholders are also helping during this time of crises, we invite everyone to share what they are doing, or propose further actions the industry can take. Join 'Cargo Action' group in the IATA Standard-Setting Workspace 

Register and join the group, 'Cargo Action'. Further guidance to register can be found here (pdf)

Need any support?  

Please do not hesitate to contact us. The entire Cargo team is there to support you.