Even as the pandemic forced limited flight operations domestically and no operations on the international sector, charter flights have come to the rescue in order to supply essentials and vaccines. According to the data sourced from Mumbai airport, the city airport saw over 1,800 medical cargo flights in a year. These included over 350 charters, operated just for vaccine distribution (international and domestic) and over 1,400 flights imported medicines and oxygen concentrators in Mumbai, until June 30.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) spokesperson said, “Even during the Unlock 3.0, CSMIA helped in the facilitation of over 570 charter flights in August 2020. The airport handled over 67,500 passengers by connecting to 34 international destinations operated by 26 airlines in the same period. As of June 30, 2021, CSMIA processed around 396 charters for vaccine distribution (international and domestic) and 1,473 flights bringing imports of medicines and oxygen concentrators.”
As one after another government, including India, placed curbs on visas and travel to contain the pandemic, the move had a direct bearing on the aviation industry with both domestic and international passenger flights getting suspended initially. At this stage, the regular international passenger services which are operated under various air services agreements have still not been allowed by the Indian government. The second wave of the pandemic, which has crashed on the country is expected to prolong this further.
According to the credit rating agency, CRISIL, while passenger traffic for the financial year (FY) 2020-21 was only 34% of FY 2019-20 volumes, cargo traffic was at 74% of FY 20 levels due to the rising demand for freight during the first wave of the pandemic led by a rise in e-commerce demand and disrupted global supply chains necessitating quick transport by air.
CSMIA facilitated over 17,700 Oxygen concentrators, 319,800 vials of Remdesivir injections and 113,900 vials of Tocilizumab injections approximately in the period between April 26 – May 14, 2021, to cater to the increase in demand for these goods for the treatment of patients in India. Thus, the city airport facilitated the transportation of over 387 tonnes of Covid relief supplies, in the same period.