To tackle with the sudden shortfall in air transport capacity, the government has instituted an air cargo management group for COVID-19 to ensure that essential commodities can be ferried across the country in a timely manner.
In addition to freighter aircraft already being allowed to transport without restrictions, the Centre has also allowed private airlines to operate passenger planes only with cargo.
“An Air cargo management group for COVID-19 has been created with a dedicated team for smooth movement of cargo. Ministry is adopting a hub & spoke approach to move essential commodities across the country. Resident Commissioners of States/UTs are part of the group,” the Ministry of Civil Aviation said.
Notably, cargo carried in underbelly of passenger aircraft accounts for nearly 60 per cent of the total air cargo transported across India. “Private airlines/freighters have been co-opted to link the request of States/UTs for smooth movement of essential items. Additionally, ATRs of Alliance Air have been kept on standby at Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad,” the Ministry added. Alliance Air operates a fleet of ATR turboprop aircraft.
On Friday, budget carrier SpiceJet operated a special charter flight from Delhi to Coimbatore carrying a Hazmat suit to help local authorities there replicate and start local manufacturing.
“We are already flying food, medicines and medical equipment for government every day. We would love to alleviate the suffering of these migrant workers, especially those from Bihar by flying some flights between Delhi/Mumbai and Patna,” Ajay Singh, CMD, SpiceJet, said.
Wadia Group airline GoAir, too, has offered the government to fly migrant workers to their native places.
In addition, Air India planes are being chartered by the government at concessional rates for cases needing large aircraft, especially to move Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) items to North East and other states. “Helicopters are ready in NE for intra-region movements. Support is being given to private agencies interested in aiding efforts,” the Civil Aviation Ministry said.
“Accordingly, essential items especially medicine & ICMR kits were transported from Delhi to Aizawl, Dibrugarh, Kolkata & Hyderabad on 27th March. The second flight of the day transported essential items from Mumbai to Pune, Bengaluru & Trivandrum,” it further said, adding that the third batch of air cargo transported essential items from Delhi to Pune and ICMR kits from Pune to Patna.
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