Even in trying times, India’s private airlines take part in coronavirus relief

Not lying idle. …

India’s airlines are putting their aircraft, grounded due to the Covid-19 pandemic, to good use.

Yesterday (April 7), SpiceJet operated the country’s first “cargo-on-seat” flight carrying vital health care and medical supplies. It deployed a Boeing 737 NG passenger aircraft on the Delhi-Chennai-Surat-Chennai-Mumbai-Delhi route on behalf of various state governments and pharma firms.

“Special seat covers made from flame-proof material were used…and the cargo…was secured with restraints. To ensure optimum utilisation of space, the overhead bin was also used (besides the aircraft belly),” SpiceJet said in its media release.


SpiceJet plane carrying essential supplies.

On April 1, India’s aviation watchdog, the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) allowed carriers to use passenger planes to ferry cargo as part of the government’s Lifeline Udan initiative.

The scheme was launched for the movement of Covid-19-related reagents, enzymes, medical equipment, testing kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, gloves, and other accessories needed for emergency workers.

As part of the initiative, SpiceXpress, SpiceJet’s cargo arm, had been helping in the delivery of essential items.

The airlines are offering their services at a time when the carriers themselves are battling a war for survival amid the various international travel bans and the ongoing 21-day long lockdown in India.

Standing together

SpiceJet, which has carried 1,400 tonnes of cargo since March 26, isn’t alone in helping the government.

India’s largest airline, IndiGo, yesterday, said that it has operated over 30 relief flights in the country since March 28 “under its own expense.”

IndiGo’s CEO Ronojoy Dutta also acknowledged the work that state-owned Air India is doing in the country’s battle against the coronavirus. “…The employees of IndiGo would also like to salute our colleagues at Air India, for the heroic work they have been doing in evacuating Indians and other nationals stranded in foreign countries. It makes us all proud to see aviation professionals stepping forward to respond to the critical humanitarian needs of the hour.”

Air India took to Twitter to express its gratitude towards IndiGo’s gesture.

The national carrier has been operating special cargo and evacuation flights to Europe, Israel, Japan and China since Jan. 31.

On March 28, Wadia group-owned GoAir also offered to fly migrant labours and their families, stuck due to the ongoing 21-day lockdown, to the airports closest to their homes.

The help from private players comes at a time when medical professionals across India are complaining about the shortage of PPE and other equipment.

Live Updates for COVID-19 CASES