Government likely to rope in passenger airlines for cargo operations
Air India carried the first bulk consignment of face masks and medical equipment from Mumbai to New Delhi on Thursday as the focus in the aviation sector shifts to transport of essential medical supplies after the ban on passenger flights. Air India operated its Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which landed in Delhi at 4 p.m. on Thursday, with 6.5 tonnes of cargo, according to the airline’s spokesperson. The airline has only passenger aircraft in its fleet and carries cargo in the aircraft’s belly which has limited capacity as compared to freight aircraft.
“We are co-ordinating with freight operators, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, passenger airlines and airports to ensure seamless movement of medicines and medical equipment across the country,” Keku Gazder, CEO of AAI Cargo Logistics and Allied Services (AAICLAS) told The Hindu. The AAI subsidiary is extending support to the Ministry of Civil Aviation for crucial cargo services.
BlueDart has six Boeing 757s, each with a capacity of up to 32 tonnes, and SpiceJet has five 737-800s with a capacity of up to 22 tonnes each. After the ban on passenger airlines came into effect on March 25, substantial cargo carrying capacity in the form of aircraft bellies has become unavailable. Various airlines like IndiGo and GoAir have offered their aircraft and crew for transporting crucial supplies.
BlueDart flew on the Chennai-Bengaluru as well as Mumbai-Kolkata-Delhi routes with vital pharmaceutical and medical equipment on Thursday.
Tulsi N. Mirchandaney, Managing Director, Blue Dart Aviation, said there has been a fall in loads due to various reasons.
“There has been a drop in demand as many businesses have suspended operations and others have found it difficult to bring their loads to airports. The government is working on facilitating countrywide distribution of relief materials, and we are trying to support them with our scheduled and charter operations,” Ms. Mirchandaney told The Hindu.
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