Budget carrier SpiceJet has said it will be operating five in-cabin cargo flights on Tuesday, using a passenger aircraft, to transport vital supplies to various parts of the country amid the lockdown. Since March 27, various air operators, including Air India and its subsidiary Alliance Air have been operating cargo flights, using the belly space of the passenger plane, under Lifeline Udan initiative of the Central government, which is aimed at the transportation of medical cargo and essential supplies across India at the time of the COVID-19 crisis.
However, the private airlines are conducting such flights on a commercial basis.
"SpiceJet has operated the country’s first cargo-on-seat flight carrying vital supplies in the passenger cabin of a Boeing 737 and its belly space from Delhi to Chennai with due regulatory approvals on Tuesday," the airline claimed in a release.
The aircraft will do five rotations on Tuesday ensuring that vital supplies are delivered in the shortest possible time, it said, adding the aircraft flew from Delhi to Chennai.
From Chennai it operated to Surat and from Surat it operated back to Chennai. The aircraft will operate from Chennai to Mumbai and from Mumbai to Delhi later on Tuesday with cargo on-board, it said.
“Since the lockdown began, we have carried more than 1,400 tons of cargo operating around 200 domestic and international cargo flights. Today, for the first time in the country, we used a passenger aircraft to transport cargo where in addition to the belly space the passenger cabin was used to safely carry essential supplies.
“We have also put our five freighters to maximum use to transport cold chain medical supplies, medicines, medical devices for various state governments, medical and pharma companies," SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh said in a release.
Special seat covers made from flame-proof material were used to cover the seats and the cargo on seat was secured with restraints, it said adding to ensure optimum utilisation of space, the overhead bin, were also used.
SpiceJet’s dedicated cargo arm, SpiceXpress has been regularly transporting surgical supplies, sanitizers, face masks, among others and providing doorstep deliveries of essential supplies, medicines and medical equipment across cities.
On March 26, SpiceJet helped transport an emergency consignment of IR Thermometers, required to detect COVID-19, to Kolkata from Hong Kong, the airline said in the release.