Export cargo at Chennai airport comes to a screeching halt as AIASL’s license revoked

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At times when it is extremely important for each link of the supply chain to function with utmost fluidity, airline operators felt a knee-jerk disruption at the Chennai Airport on the first day of 2023. On 1st January, without any pre-advise, Air India Airport Services Ltd. (AIASL) was completely stopped from handling any cargo by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). According to well-placed sources, the AIASL is no longer RA compliant as their permission to handle cargo has been cancelled due to non-renewal, and they won’t be able to accept palletised air cargo.

The sudden move by the BCAS has got airline operators crying foul. According to them, they were not intimated about this development and were caught by surprise, leading to unavailability of immediate alternate arrangements. As a result, no export cargo has been lifted up by all the carriers handled by AIASL in the first week of the new year.

“Air cargo agents are facing an unprecedented stoppage of moving their export freight on airlines whose ground handling agent is AIASL. We understand BCAS has issued a communication on December 31 withdrawing the permission to accept palletised air cargo for export as their Regulated Agent status is pending approval.”

~ J Krishnan, Natesa Iyer Logistics LLP

“Clients that utilise the services of Singapore Airlines, Malaysian Airlines and Air India are stuck with no option to move their cargo. Perishable cargo export to South East Asia is seriously jeopardised,” he said.

It should be noted that AIASL handles cargo operations for Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Thai Airways and Saudia Air at the Chennai Airport. Apart from that, most of the perishable cargo that flows out to South East Asia from Chennai is handled at the AIASL facility. As a result, 200 tonnes of export cargo including perishables, are stranded at the Chennai airport, as per sources.

As if now there is no official communication of the events which led to this stoppage, nor any information of alternate arrangements have been provided. Cargo trade is completely in the dark and unfulfilled export orders will seriously affect the trade.

Cargo acceptance from exporters is assigned to 2 agencies i.e AAICLAS (100% Import, 70% Export) and AIASL (30%) at the Chennai Airport. Their function is to provide receiving area for trucks to unload export cargo, complete customs formalities and then unitised the cargo (packets and containers) and move them to the airline for export.

A cargo agent said that only inspections were carried out and a report was being generated. The issue is expected to be resolved within this week. But big airlines not carrying cargo for almost four days at a major airport is a serious lapse in management.