Friday, November 13, 2020

India's decision to ply cargo on passenger seats helped fight pandemic-induced losses



According to an IANS report, seeing a tremendous growth in the cargo segment, airline major IndiGo might add freighter aircraft in its fleet. Industry insiders told IANS that the airline is evaluating a proposal to add freighter aircraft, which will help the company expand cargo services to China, Singapore and Malaysia in the near future. The move to haul more cargo via freighters assumes significance as the segment has seen a massive demand surge due to the pandemic.

According to a November 5 report by IANS, the national capital's IGI Airport witnessed a significant surge in cargo movement during September, as it handled a volume of around 77,000 MT. Both 'Cargo Tonnage' and Cargo Aircraft movements showed a pick-up in September on the back of gradual opening up of economic activities. "Gradual opening up of economic activities in the country over the past few months after the lockdown period is showing positive signs of recovery," GMR Group-led Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) said in a statement. Recently, DIAL has also developed 3 additional freighter parking bays, taking the total number of dedicated freighter bays to 12, and thereby significantly enhancing the capacity of handling cargo freighters at the airport for ensuring fast and efficient operations.

“We are very excited about cargo. Cargo revenues are actually down but wide bodies which used to carry most of the cargo are grounded and therefore narrow bodies are carrying more and more cargo and we are taking full advantage of that opportunity. So although we are flying only 58%, our cargo revenue year over year is up 20%. So you can see how much difference that switch has made,” said Ronojoy Dutta, CEO, IndiGo.

In an interview to ET, Chairman and Managing Director of SpiceJet Ajay Singh, said that when the COVID lockdown began on March 25, we realised we won’t be able to ferry passengers for quite some time. But goods could still move. In certain cases, no other modes of transportation was available. We, in SpiceJet, immediately pressed into action five freighter aircraft we had. We were also the first airline to seek permission from the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) to carry cargo on passenger seats. We knew we wouldn’t be able to quickly convert our passenger aircraft into cargo planes. But yes, we could well put cargo on seats and run passenger aircraft as freighters. We were granted permission. Plying cargo on passenger seats played a key role in India’s global trade during the lockdown. We carried shrimp seeds, and lots of fruits and vegetables to the Gulf countries. Had those not been moved on time, our farmers would have suffered a lot. These are farm items that can’t wait. So, fruits, vegetables and pharma shipments were placed on passenger seats and exported. In our return flight, we mostly carried pharmaceuticals from countries such as China and Singapore.

13/11/20 Economic Times

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