Airlines find hope in vaccine cargo as passenger traffic takes a nosedive

vaccine cargo

Cargo transport has surfaced as the top focus for airlines for the world’s largest immunisation drive underway, transporting millions of vaccines doses across the country. This comes at a time when fewer people are flying to prevent the risk of a further deluge in coronavirus cases.

Airlines are reconfiguring aircraft and getting more planes to meet the cargo transport demand, which is expected to go up as the vaccinations open up for all adults from 1 May.

 “IndiGo is currently the leader in terms of the amount of vaccine being transported by air within India—we anticipate this will continue, given our wide network and number of flights, even after some reductions due to lower passenger demand,” said Willie Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer at IndiGo.

“While there is no more important mission to complete properly, and all our attention to detail is given to delivering vaccine shipments swiftly and safely, the actual tonnage is relatively small and well within capabilities. We look forward to expanding this vital national effort further as production increases.”

~Willie Boulter, Chief Commercial Officer at IndiGo

IndiGo has said that it carried 81,437kg of covid vaccine shipments between 12 January and 12 April from top vaccine manufacturing points in Pune, Hyderabad and Mumbai, thereby securing a leading market share of 36.6% in the vaccine transport segment.

The budget airline is also sourcing four Airbus A321ceo aircraft, each of which will be converted from a passenger jet to a full freighter configuration.

On the other hand, low cost carrier AirAsia India has transported over 50 tonnes of vaccine cargo to date, transporting about 17 million doses or about 18-20% of total vaccines transported across the country, shared a company spokesperson.

The spokesperson said, “We have offered committed cargo space in our commercial flights to freight agents appointed by Serum India and Bharat Biotech that they have utilized. We can also operate cargo-only flights for ferrying COVID vaccine in case any pharma firm has to air transport large volumes”.

At a time when the country is witnessing a marked rise in coronavirus cases, vaccine delivery to the remotest corners of the country is now being explored and streamlined by the Centre. On that note, the Civil Aviation Ministry on Thursday granted conditional exemption to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to conduct a feasibility study on using drones for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, according to an official statement.

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