After rescuing stranded Indian citizens abroad, national carrier Air India is transporting essential agricultural and medical commodities to the world market. Accordingly, under the Centre’s ‘KrishiUdan scheme, the airline has identified around 10 cargo destinations across the globe, where it will actively utilise its aircraft in ferrying essentials such as fruits, vegetables and medical goods.
The airline has started the service on routes to the UK, Germany, Israel, China, Seychelles, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Maldives amongst others. Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, the airline had robust cargo operations with a network combined with 58 domestic and 29 international stations. Over the years, the airline has acquired expertise in carriage of perishable cargo, such as vegetables, fruits, meat, seafood and vaccines, newspapers and livestock.
According to the scheme, Air India will transport these commodities to the destination airports and bring back other types of cargo. Recently, Air India operated its second flight under the programme ferrying 27 tonnes of fruits and vegetables to Frankfurt from Mumbai.
The flight was operated on April 15 to Frankfurt and returned with 10 tonnes of general cargo material. Furthermore, the airline has carried 29 tons of fruits and vegetables to London. The flight returned with 15.6 tonnes of general cargo material.
Air India has also established an air-bridge between India and China with effect from April 4 for transportation of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and Covid-19 relief material. On April 4, the airline brought back 21 tons of critical medical supplies from China. Besides cargo, the airline has played an instrumental role in rescuing around 2,000 Indian citizens mostly students and pilgrims from China, Japan, Italy and other cities of Europe.
Lately, the flag carrier has been able to mobilise massive resources to operate international charter flights as well. The airline has operated 18 charter flights to fly back German, French, Irish and Canadian nationals stranded in India amid the nationwide lockdown, as requested by their respective embassies.
On the domestic front, the Air India Group has been transporting essential cargo throughout the country. The airline has operated 154 cargo flights between March 26 and April 15. The flights, being operated regularly between the metro hubs — Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai — to the remote destinations of northeast and other far-flung areas of the country, are carrying medical equipment and other essential items.