Hyderabad: During this tumultuous time, when the world is reeling under the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic and India is in a state of complete lock-down, there is a dire need for movement of medical equipment and essential goods. In the wake of this, recently, DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation), Govt. of India has permitted cargo operations using existing passenger category aircraft subject to specific guidelines issued by the regulator.
Under this new arrangement, GMR led Hyderabad Air Cargo handled its first international shipment of essential supplies via passenger aircraft operating a cargo flight on 2nd April 2020.
Qatar Cargo QR 8311 landed at 1.35 AM on 2nd April with medical & other essential supplies bound for Hyderabad, the capital city of Telangana. The same aircraft uplifted 28 Tons of essential supplies from Hyderabad and departed at around 3 AM on the same day to Doha and connected the shipments from thereon to other corners of the globe.
- Qatar Airways operated its passenger aircraft to move cargo between Hyderabad and Doha and connecting across the world
- Capacity to bring approx. 25 Mt of import cargo comprising of medical supplies and other essentials
- Lifted off approx. 28 Tons of export cargo comprising of essential supplies, Pharmaceuticals, Perishables etc.
- Hyderabad International Airport categorized as one of the 6 national hubs under Government of India’s ‘Lifeline Udan’ Initiate
Speaking on this occasion, Mr. SGK Kishore, CEO, GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd (GHIAL), said, “Extraordinary situations require extraordinary solutions. We are happy that DGCA has proactively permitted cargo operations using passenger category aircraft. This has opened a window of opportunity for the aviation community to leverage the fleet of idled passenger aircraft to help meet the desperate need for air cargo capacity to carry essential medicines and other supplies across the globe during this moment of global crisis. Having successfully handled the first such flight to operate into Hyderabad under the new DGCA guidelines, we remain committed to supporting continued operations of our nation’s air cargo lifeline in the days to come.”
The DGCA order also will encourage more airlines to use their grounded passenger aircraft for cargo-only operations, including loading cargo boxed on seats inside passenger cabins for movement of cargo including essential Pharmaceuticals and food supplies.
It is also noteworthy that Hyderabad International Airport has been categorized as one of the 6 national hubs under Government of India’s ‘Lifeline Udan’ arrangement for operating medical cargo lifelines for the nation in this hour of crisis and GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo and GHIAL are working round the clock in close coordination with the Customs, Ground Handlers, Forwarders, CHAs (Customs House Agents), Regulators, State Police, Cargo Trade associations, to keep the critical chain of essential supplies viz. Medicines, Vaccines, Medical equipment, Pharma raw material, Defense Goods, Banking documents etc. up and running even though the lockdown.
With around 200 dedicated and highly motivated personnel working in a shift, Hyderabad Air Cargo is operating round the clock to ensure all these essential supplies are properly handled and timely cleared. The personnel include GMR cargo staff, Customs officials, Regulatory Agencies, Ground handlers, Freight Forwarders, CHAs among others. To ensure fuel supplies to the aircraft, the GHIAL fuel farm continues to remain available round the clock.
At present, GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo is handling around 10 freighters weekly along with some special cargo charters, which are connecting Hyderabad with all major international destinations in the United States of America, European countries, Middle-east, Africa, Far East, etc. moving emergency supplies.
Among the key scheduled freighters that are operating from Hyderabad International Airport to include – Cathay Pacific Cargo, Turkish Cargo, Qatar Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo, SpiceXpress Cargo (Domestic and international) and BlueDart Cargo.
Mindful of the present challenging circumstances, both GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd and GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo are ensuring that every possible step is taken to guard against the ever-present threat of COVID-19. Some of the measures taken are as below:
- 100% screening by Infra-red Thermal Gun at entries for all staff at cargo premises
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) viz. Gown, Gloves and Cap and Masks for cargo Handling Personnel
- Dedicated Doctor to oversee any medical concerns
- Health monitoring of all employees
- Periodic fumigation of the cargo terminal
- Frequent cleaning of work stations and equipment having frequent human touchpoints
- Encouraging Social Distancing among the personnel