Air Canada is seeking government approval to add five new destinations in Europe and South America to its air freight network starting 1 June, seeking to take advantage of demand for cargo capacity even as passenger travel demand remains stagnant.

If approved, the Canadian flag carrier would operate air freight deliveries from its hub in Montreal to Bogota, Lima, Amsterdam, Dublin and Madrid. The carrier added that scheduled commercial flights could support cargo capacity, but it has not operated passenger flights to those cities since March, according to Cirium schedules data.

Air Canada on 27 May announced it would operate the air freight routes with four Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and three Airbus A330-300s that have been converted to carry cargo in passenger cabins.

Air Canada says it has operated 1,200 cargo-only flights since the end of March when airlines began to trim capacity as Canada and other nations began quarantine restrictions. The carrier says it is seeking opportunities to add additional all-cargo flights.

International flights have been the biggest moneymaker for Air Canada, so on 25 May it announced plans to roll back capacity cuts and resume flights through July to some destinations in the USA, Caribbean, South America, Europe and Pacific markets. The resumption of international air travel demand will depend on whether coronavirus cases decline and governments ease restrictions that require arrivals to their nations to quarantine for 14 days.

The demand for air freight has been a bright spot for carriers amid the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated passenger travel. Demand for deliveries of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals has soared during the pandemic, but the removal of passenger airliners from service has led to a shortage of air freight capacity that is typically carried by those aircraft.

The most recent data from IATA shows that air cargo traffic fell 15% year-over-year in March, and capacity was down 23% overall and 25% in international markets.