New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) At a time when the national lockdown has paralysed the transport industry, the national capital’s IGI Airport has emerged as a vital tool in the country’s efforts to restock key medical supplies across the country and to repatriate foreigners.
The 21-day-long national lockdown which has been deemed necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19, has dealt a heavy blow to commerce, leading to a temporary closure of shopping malls, dine-in restaurants, grounding of aircraft, shutting down of factories and deserted market places.
Nevertheless, IGI Airport has been a busy place, as employees are unhindered to make the key infrastructure facility functional, thereby, allowing repatriation of stranded passengers and to connect India with the global supply chains via cargo ops.
Currently, commercial domestic and international flights are banned since March 25, 2020.
According to Delhi International Airport’s CEO Videh Kumar Jaipuriar: “At present, Delhi Airport is handling cargo and evacuation flights, operated by various countries.”
“DIAL employees from operations, housekeeping, ARFF, apron control, etc. along with CISF, ATC among others are working round-the-clock to keep the airport operational in this hour of crisis,” Jaipuriar told IANS.
The Delhi International Airport limited is the company which operates and runs IGI Airport, which is a hub of major domestic airlines such as Air India, IndiGo, Vistara and SpiceJet.
In terms of numbers, the Delhi Airport from March 25 to April 10 and counting has handled over 68 evacuation flights allowing over 12,383 stranded foreign nationals in reaching their homes.
These flights were to be operated by countries like US, UK, Canada, Japan, Norway, Germany, Afghanistan, Poland, Russia, France to repatriate their nationals stranded in India due to lockdown.
National passenger carrier Air India repatriated foreigners from here and Mumbai.
The airline has also opened an air bridge between India and China from IGIA.
However, it is the cargo section of the airport which has seen massive action lately.
The cargo terminal and associated facilities at IGIA have been operating in full swing to support the Centre in handling and processing essential commodities, especially healthcare and medical supplies.
At present, Delhi Airport is handling 20-22 cargo flights per day including non-scheduled operations, with freighters arriving from destinations like Doha, Paris, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Incheon.
This operation has enabled import of essential supplies like Masks, Medicines, Medical equipment, Test kits, Reagents and other supplies and the numbers are staggering.
Since the lockdown came into force, more than 19 lakh pieces of Face Masks, two lakh bottles of Sanitizers, 1.5 lakh PPE Kits and 50,000 other medical equipment have been channelized across India till date.
In addition to the international cargo flights, Delhi Airport has witnessed 3-4 chartered aircraft movements per day for handling medical equipment and relief material to and from Patna, Varanasi, Guwahati, Nagpur and Vadodra.
This number is expected to increase to 8-10 flights per day.
Besides, Air India and Indian Air Force have connected even far flung areas of Northeast like Dimapur in Nagaland and Imphal in Manipur, as well as other cities like Mumbai, Bangalore, Vijyawada, Cochin, Hyderabad to the airport via cargo ops.
Nearly all the private airlines are operating cargo services from this airport to various destinations across the country.
Furthermore, Jaipuriar said: “We have sought for support from MoCA for getting special permissions for movement of trucks to and from the airport to carry essential goods.”
“Besides, additional warehouse space is being created at the Delhi Airport for holding imported cargo. We are also pursuing with Customs for adequate staff at Cargo Terminals for faster clearance of goods as more such movements are planned in the coming days.”
The airport has the capacity to handle over 1.8 million MT of cargo annually, which is scalable to 2.3 million MT.
(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)