Chennai airport sees steady growth in cargo

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on November 13, 2020

Cargo handling at the Chennai airport is back on track with the increase in operations of passenger flights that carry cargo in their belly. The growth was witnessed in all the categories — import, export, domestic and courier.

The airport handled just 5,000 tonnes in May due to the Covid-19 lockdown in March and April when manufacturing came to a standstill. However, as the lockdown relaxations were announced from May, the cargo traffic picked up momentum month-on-month to a total of 29,300 tonnes in October, which was 101 per cent of October 2019 handling. In September, the airport achieved nearly 94 per cent of September 2019 volume, according to data available with BusinessLine. Domestic passenger flight operations at the Chennai airport resumed from May 24 but incoming flights were restricted to 25 per day. This was later increased to 50 and now to 100.

The surge in cargo handling at Chennai airport was evident from the fact that Antonov124, one of the world’s largest ‘strategic’ four engine aircrafts, called at the airport from Seoul on November 1 with 96 tonnes of automotive parts. This was its third visit to Chennai in the last 45 days, said a social media post by Airports Authority of India (AAI), Chennai.

Despite many hurdles during this pandemic, the Chennai airport handled nearly 60 freighters a week. On an average the cargo terminal handled 22 tonnes per day during the last six months and the highest growth percentage being in October at the cargo complex, which is handled by AAICLAS (Airport Authority of India Cargo Logistics and Allied Services).

The airport receives freighters operated by various airlines, including Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, British Airways, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Etihad, Sri Lankan and Blue Dart. In addition, during the pandemic, Hong Kong Air, Sichuan Air and Korean Air operated at the airport, said a spokesperson of the AAI, Chennai.

Focus on pharma products

Earlier, the focus was just on imports and exports but now it is also on domestic air cargo operations where pharma products have become a majority. “There is a huge potential in handling perishable cargo and e-commerce products with a special area for this sector,” the spokesperson noted.

Amit Bajaj, President Domestic Air Cargo Agents Association of India, said the increase in air cargo volume was fuelled by surge in movement of masks, Covid test kits and auto parts. Since the pandemic, the e-commerce sales surge helped in air cargo volume. “Government’s proactive policy allowed cargo to be carried on seats to enable airlines to operate their passenger aircrafts as freighters. This helped in revival of air cargo traffic,” said Bajaj, who is also Director of Xpeed Logistics

Published on November 13, 2020

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