The air cargo industry plays a vital role in commerce and transportation, but did you know that it also plays a significant part in humanitarian efforts? In recent years, there has been a growing trend of increased humanitarian aid delivery in the air cargo industry, and it has made a profound impact on local communities worldwide. In this post, we will explore the benefits of humanitarian efforts in the air cargo sector and how airfreight companies are using their resources to make a difference. We will also discuss the challenges and offer tips for transporters who are looking to get involved.

Overview of the Air Cargo Industry and Global Trends

The air cargo industry is a crucial component of the global economy. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), air cargo transportation accounts for over $6 trillion worth of goods annually. The industry is constantly evolving, and the use of technology has enabled air cargo transportation to become more efficient and cost-effective. With the fluctuating demand for airfreight over the long-term, it’s important to ensure that humanitarian aid by air continues, as it plays a vital role in global relief efforts. 

Increasing Humanitarian Efforts in Air Cargo

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the use of air cargo transportation for humanitarian aid delivery. The use of airfreight delivery networks has allowed humanitarian aid to be delivered quickly, efficiently, and to remote areas that are otherwise difficult to reach. One such example is the Haiti Humanitarian Airbridge (HAB): a multi-agency collaboration and program finalist in Concordia’s 2023 P3 Impact Award.  Humanitarian programs such as HAB are increasingly turning to air cargo alliances to deliver food, medical supplies, and other essential goods to those in need. Many air cargo stakeholders donate their services and resources to humanitarian relief organizations through humanitarian aid networks. 

What Are the Benefits of Humanitarian Efforts in Air Cargo?

There are numerous benefits in utilizing air cargo for humanitarian aid delivery, such as: 

  • Rapid delivery
  • Time-sensitive response rate
  • Reduction of damaged or lost goods 

Air cargo transportation allows for the rapid delivery of essential supplies and equipment. It also enables aid organizations to respond urgently to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. Further, air cargo transportation reduces the risk of damage or loss of goods on route, which can be crucial in emergency situations. Many airfreight companies now offer their services and resources for humanitarian aid, and the public can support their efforts by donating to accredited organizations that conduct humanitarian operations.

Air Cargo Companies Support International Aid 

Air cargo companies and not-for-profit organizations across the world are actively involved in supporting humanitarian aid delivery. One organization making such an impact is Airlink. Airlink is a non-profit organization that connects aid organizations with airlines, enabling them to transport supplies and personnel to disaster zones and other areas of need. Airlink defines its mission as “a nonprofit organization working with aviation and logistics partners to transport relief workers and emergency supplies for reputable non-governmental organizations (NGOs) responding to rapid-onset disasters and other humanitarian crises around the globe.”

Airlink has a robust network of over 50 commercial and charter airlines and over 130 international NGOS.

At AidEx 2022 (a notable global humanitarian and disaster relief conference) Qatar Airways Cargo received Development2030’s 2022 Corporate Social Responsibility Program of the Year Award, and was nominated by Airlink.  

Airlink and Qatar Airways Cargo have partnered together since the launch of the 2020 WeQare chapter 1 pillar. As a result of the commitment to donated cargo capacity, Airlink and its nonprofit partners have transported 200 tonnes of humanitarian aid over that period. Fifty separate shipments were coordinated, benefiting hospitals, local governments, and community-based organizations in nearly 20 countries. As a result of this initiative, 28 nonprofit organizations had access to airfreight services free of charge, saving more than $1.2 million in transportation costs and reaching more than 4,337,457 people with life-saving supplies.


There are several other companies making a recent positive impact in the air cargo humanitarian space. When Lahaina suffered tremendous losses due to wildfire on the Hawaiian island of Maui, airline cargo divisions stepped in to help, including:

Relief and rescue flights in the early days after the fire, dropping much needed supplies and returning with passengers in tow. By delivering vital supplies like to-go meals, medicine, food, clothing, and household goods – and transporting passengers back to Seattle in urgent rescue return flights – businesses like Alaska Air Cargo have made a significant impact on alleviating the stressors that communities-in-need face in the wake of disaster.

Impact of Humanitarian Aid on Local Communities

The impact of increased humanitarian efforts in the air cargo industry on local communities cannot be overstated. Rapid delivery of essential supplies and resources can make a critical difference in a crisis, saving lives and providing the support needed to rebuild communities. Furthermore, the humanitarian relief provided by air cargo operators means that aid organizations can focus on their core objectives, rather than on transportation and logistics.

Challenges for Humanitarian Aid Delivery in the Air Cargo Space

While air cargo transportation is a useful tool for humanitarian aid delivery, there are still several challenges that need to be addressed. 

  • Limited airport capacity
  • Fluctuating fuel prices
  • Shortage of aircraft 

These factors can all impact the ability to provide rapid and efficient aid delivery. Additionally, customs regulations and other international barriers may complicate efforts to provide aid promptly to those in need.

Humanitarian cargo ready for airfreight delivery

TIPS for Transporters

If you are looking to get involved in humanitarian air delivery, there are several ways to get involved!


Making a Difference: Increased Awareness of Humanitarian Efforts in Air Cargo

The air cargo industry is evolving, and as it does, it’s crucial for companies to continue supporting humanitarian aid delivery. Stressing the importance of humanitarian aid efforts can help drive progress and motivate more companies and individuals to get involved.The Airforwarders Association (AfA), the Air and Expedited Motor Carriers Association (AEMCA), and Airports Council, International – North America (ACI-NA) (your host associations for the AirCargo Conference) are dedicated to bringing together stakeholders in the air cargo transportation sector, including airlines, airport authorities, technology providers, freight forwarders, and expedited motor carriers.The AirCargo Conference continues to connect organizations globally in support of the growing demands for airfreight delivery, including humanitarian aid. Several members of these associations take an active role in humanitarian relief flights. Please contact the executive directors and leadership of AfA, AEMCA, or ACI-NA for more information, accessible on their linked association websites listed above.

The growing trend of increased humanitarian aid delivery in the air cargo industry has made a significant impact on communities in need worldwide. Air cargo transportation has provided the capability to provide rapid and efficient aid delivery, helping to save lives and rebuild communities. While challenges exist, there are ways to get involved and contribute to global aid efforts. Ultimately, the support and participation of air cargo companies and aid associations is vital to ensure the on-going success of humanitarian aid delivery at scale.