The government on Tuesday announced setting up of a "cargo air-bridge" between India and China, and said that regular cargo flights for transporting critical medical supplies between the two countries are likely to be operated by Air India from April 3. In an official release, the civil aviation ministry also said it has operated as many as 62 cargo services in the past five days, starting March 26, under its recently launched 'Lifeline Udan flights' initiative, transporting over 15.4 tonnes of essential medical supplies.
The initiative is aimed at ferrying medical and essential supplies from one place to another across the country.
"On the international front, Air India has established a cargo air-bridge between India and China. Regular cargo flights for transporting critical medical equipment and supplies between the two countries are likely to be operated by Air India from April 3, 2020 onwards," the ministry said.
The Lifeline Udan flights are being operated using the hub-and-spoke model, with New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata serving as the four hubs.
Of the 62 flights, as many as 45 flights have been operated by the flag carrier Air India and its regional arm, Alliance Air, while the rest 17 by the Indian Air Force and private carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet, the release said.
It also said Air India and IAF collaborated for operating Lifeline Udan services to Ladakh.
Private carriers like IndiGo, Spicejet and BlueDart are operating medical cargo flights on a commercial basis, it stated.
The lifeline cargo includes COVID-19-related reagents, enzymes, medical equipment, testing kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, gloves and other accessories required by "Corona Warriors" across the country.
The carriers involved in Lifeline Udan operations include Air India, Alliance Air, Indian Air Force (IAF) and Pawan Hans, the release said adding that it is also getting support from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) and its cargo and logistics subsidiary AAICLAS, AI Airports Services (AIASL), PPP airports and private ground handling entities, among others.
The civil aviation ministry and all aviation stakeholders are determined to support India's war against COVID-19 by transporting essential medical supplies by air in the most efficient, seamless and cost-effective manner, it said.