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Air Canada starts cargo-only flights carrying time-sensitive shipments

An Air Canada hangar is seen behind a security fence at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Friday, March 20, 2020. A union official says Air Canada is laying off more than 5,000 flight attendants as the country's largest airline cuts routes and parks planes due to the coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

MONTREAL — Air Canada has started using its aircraft to operate cargo-only flights to Europe, with other flights planned for Latin America and South America.

The airline says the aircraft have no passengers, but instead are carrying time-sensitive shipments, including medical supplies.

The flights come as Air Canada slashes capacity due to the drop in travel due to the steps taken to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The first cargo-only flights departed from Toronto for Frankfurt, London and Amsterdam this past week.

The flights were operated using Boeing 787 aircraft capable of carrying 35 tonnes of cargo.

Air Canada says it’s also exploring opportunities to offer the service domestically including using smaller Air Canada Express regional aircraft.

“Air Canada Cargo has long served as a vital link in global supply chains and with the disruption arising from the COVID-19 pandemic our capabilities are more important than ever,” Tim Strauss, vice-president of cargo at Air Canada, said in statement.

“Although we have announced very significant temporary capacity reductions and our passenger flights are largely dedicated to bringing Canadians home, Air Canada’s aircraft and our expertise in handling cargo are valuable assets that we can use to move medical supplies and other essential goods to keep the world economy going.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 25, 2020.

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The Canadian Press