Govt allows use of passenger planes to ferry cargo to fight Coronavirus

After national carrier Air India could not implement government’s directive to convert its passenger planes to cargo, the government has now allowed all carriers to ferry cargo in their passenger planes.

“The government has allowed airlines to carry cargo in their passenger aircraft, which are grounded at various airport, and approvals from the aviation regulator – Directorate General of Civil Aviation – is in process,” said a source, who did not want to be identified.

This has been allowed after the national carrier rejected government’s proposal to convert its planes into cargo planes by removing seats due to logistical hurdle. ET reporter it first on Friday that AI has rejected such a request from the government.

The aviation ministry, in a tweet, also said that they are working with private airlines to transfer material required to test and control the spread of Coronavirus.

“Private airlines/freighters have been co-opted to link the request of States/UTs for smooth movement of essential items. Additionally, ATRs of @allianceair have been kept on standby at Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bengaluru & Hyderabad,” said a tweet from the aviation ministry.

With the government deciding to completely ground passenger domestic airline operations from Tuesday, a large chunk of air cargo capacity also went out of the system, as cargo is carried in the belly of passenger aircraft.

The only Indian airline that has cargo aircraft in its fleet is SpiceJet and everyone else carries cargo in the belly of their aircraft. Both IndiGo and GoAir have offered their planes for transport of cargo. With these approvals, these planes can be used now.

An airline executive explains that an Airbus 320 aircraft, with 180 plus seats, can carry 6 to 9 tonnes of cargo without passengers on board.

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