The lockdown during the Covid crisis managed to bring the domestic logistic sector including aviation together like never before for carrying cargo.

From being ready to pick up ventilators that Maruti was producing at its plants and flying them to the needy to making sure that a shipment was picked up from Kentucky in the United States and flown to India to fight the Covid pandemic, the domestic airline industry did this and more.

Addressing a webinar, Vandana Aggarwal, Senior Economic Advisor, Ministry of Civil Aviation said that one day they got a call telling them that there is a very small factory in Kentucky the gates of which open at 8 am from where 5 kg of reagent had to be brought to India to make 100,000 protective kits.

“It was a mind-boggling challenge. I woke up somebody and said take a truck and carry dry ice or whatever is needed to pick it up and send it to India,” Aggarwal said. The reagent was then flown to India.

Since the lockdown happened during the harvesting season, almost 3,000 Krishi UDAN flights ensured that 40,000 tonnes of produce could be exported while almost 7,000-8,000 tonnes of produce was airlifted to different parts of the country. Earlier in a statement, Delhi airport had said that the first consignment of fresh vegetables from Varanasi was carried by British Airways on April 23 to London while three tonnes of mangoes from Lucknow were sent to Dubai on Air India Express on June 4.

Aggarwal pointed out that during the Covid lockdown Indian airlines converted 136 passenger aircraft into all-cargo carriage aircraft so that they could carry cargo on passenger seats. This was after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) allowed domestic airlines to fly cargo in the passenger section of their aircraft. Aggarwal also pointed out that in November 2018 there were just 11 freighters with India adding three more during Covid.

“Today apart from the 14 freighters we have the maximum air cargo capacity that we have ever seen on our own domestic freighters apart from the international freighters and international fleet which is also carrying cargo,” she added.

There is also good news for the airports. It is estimated that cargo through put at Indian airports is likely to be in the 70 per cent region rather than in the 50 per cent region in July this year thanks to all the initiatives taken by the domestic airline industry.