The International Air Transport Association (IATA), trade association for the world's airlines, is calling on governments to take action to ensure air cargo flows smoothly and efficiently to help the fight against the spread of COVID-19. 

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's director general and CEO, specifically pointed out bureaucratic "bottlenecks" related to securing slots and obtaining operating permits, as cargo planes carrying medical supplies and equipment attempt to try and fill demand. As global passenger air services have virtually ground to a halt, airlines are battling government obstacles trying to meet cargo demand by repurposing passenger planes for cargo hauls, and reintroducing freight shipping services. 

Cargo being loaded onto jet airplane

Image source: Getty Images.

In an effort to increase cargo capacity, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), American Airlines Group (NASDAQ:AAL), and United Airlines Holdings (NASDAQ:UAL) are using passenger aircraft for cargo-only flights, domestically and internationally. International Airlines Group's (OTC:ICAGY) British Airways, Air Canada (OTC:ACDVF), and other international carriers are doing the same thing. 

The opportunity for the airlines to help transport important cargo as the world fights the pandemic also gives the industry much needed revenue as passenger capacity has been drastically cut. 

The IATA most recently estimated that passenger airlines could lose up to $252 billion in revenue from the COVID-19 crisis, a 44% cut from the level of a year ago. In its call on airlines and governments to help support using the previous passenger routes for cargo, IATA pointed to examples of 2 million masks being transported by Airbus (OTC:EADSY) from China to Europe, and medical equipment donations being moved to African nations.