Written by Adani Airports Holding Limited (AAHL) Spokesperson
The pandemic has had an unparalleled impact, its effects have encompassed all regions. The virus proved to be persistent as it evolved into different strains that can now be found in various pockets around the world. The very real risk to life led to many governments closing their borders in early 2020 against passenger air travel, while keeping air cargo and emergency travel operations active to provide essential aid to the needs of the many. Fifteen months on, after being ravaged by multiple strains of the pandemic, air freight and air ambulances continue to be important for countries during these challenging times. As one of the busiest airports in the country, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) has played a key role in facilitating the transportation of essential medical goods and emergency services thanks to its well-equipped infrastructure, digital innovations, strategic foresight, and trained and dedicated workforce.
Situated in the heart of one of the busiest cities in India, CSMIA was the first airport in the country to have a dedicated General Aviation (GA) terminal to cater to the then burgeoning demand for private charters, luxury business travel, VIP and diplomat movements to name a few. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the airport has witnessed a massive shift from private and business jet operations to emergency air travel. Over and above its general day-to-day operations, CSMIA’s GA Terminal has catered to approximately 185 medical ambulance flights carrying over 654 passengers since the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020. Between the months of April to June 2021 alone, the airport’s GA terminal catered to over 75 air ambulance operations across domestic destinations, including Allahabad, Bhubaneswar, Bangalore, Begumpet, Bilaspur, Bhopal, Chennai, Delhi, Gwalior, Indore, Jabalpur, Jodhpur, Lucknow, Mangalore, Nagpur, Pantnagar, Patna, Raipur, Rajkot, Sholapur, Tirupati, Udaipur, Varanasi and Vizag. Besides these, the airport also catered to a total of nine international air ambulance ATMs across destinations such as Baku, Male, Manama, Sharjah, Singapore and Trabzon.
The airport’s GA operations team has also adopted numerous measures to provide the necessary facilities and arrangements to ease the way forward for the patients and kin availing air ambulance services. The team has been exceptional at coordinating amongst all parties and agencies involved in order to ensure a seamless and timely transport of the patient from the tarmac to the hospital and vice versa. The team also diligently ensures adherence to the preventive protocols issued by the Government of India for the safety of the patients, the passengers accompanying them as well as the personnel at the airport. While keeping in mind that the specifications for facilitating these essential operations can vary from case to case, the effective implementation of the standard procedures planned out by the CSMIA’s GA team has resulted in achieving a processing time as short as 15 minutes for domestic and 25 minutes for international flights, including customs and immigration clearance. Additionally, CSMIA’s GA terminal has also processed and supported the efficient and timely arrival and departure of emergency charters bringing in medical personnel, equipment, live organs amongst other forms of medical requirements across borders.
In addition to its contribution to air ambulance operations, CSMIA has also been working tirelessly to ensure a seamless supply chain of essential goods including much-needed pharmaceutical cargo since the year 2020. CSMIA Air Cargo’s ingenious physical and digital infrastructure, trained and experienced workforce, strategic partnerships, and vast global connectivity and network has set the airport apart as a premier cargo hub in the country. Furthermore, the far-sightedness of the airport’s cargo team in establishing itself as a veteran in pharmaceutical consignments had positioned CSMIA impeccably as an indispensable contributor to the global supply chain in the battle against COVID-19. From supporting the shipments of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), pharma samples, medicines, machinery amongst others to vaccine transshipments to the import and distribution of oxygen concentrators and other COVID-relief supplies, CSMIA’s Cargo Terminal has been a witness to the changing needs of the world with the evolution of the pandemic.
CSMIA gained recognition as a significant extension of the nation’s healthcare framework by becoming the first airport in India to export the first-ever batch of Government Grant vaccination to international destinations in January 2020. Since then, the airport has facilitated the efficient transportation of around 107 million doses of vaccines to over 139 destinations across the world. This consists of about 51.3 million doses distributed within India and over 55.8 million doses transported across the globe. CSMIA has been prioritizing the shipments of these vaccines and registered an average cargo processing time of just 10 minutes for domestic delivery and 25 minutes for international, including offloading and storage. Given the requirement for timely and temperature-controlled movement of the vaccine, the existing infrastructure at CSMIA enables the airport to offer a continuous temperature-controlled movement and seamless processing of essential pharma goods through the airport. The airport deployed a dedicated COVID-task force in order to reduce dwell time and facilitate advanced planning and collaboration between the airport and all stakeholders in this process. It has also initiated a full-time 24/7 Customer Service Cell for COVID-19 vaccine EXIM consignments, in order to address customer queries, pre-alerts and status updates.
Additionally, with the onset of the second wave of the pandemic in the country, CSMIA’s Air Cargo catered to the need of the hour by giving precedence to the seamless processing of COVID-relief supplies. As foreign countries extended their aid to help India fight off the overwhelming challenge of the second wave, CSMIA facilitated the shipment of approximately 923 tonnes of COVID relief supplies such as Oxygen concentrators, vials of COVID medicines among others. With efficient prioritization of vaccine and medical relief cargo shipments and the timely implementation of the standard operating procedures, the cargo team at CSMIA successfully facilitated the movement of approx. 13,500 tons of life-saving medical and pharmaceutical equipment across 40 international destinations through over 13,690 freighter aircrafts.
This period of COVID-19 saw the emergence of demand for special services and requirements like never before. CSMIA’s immediate response to these demands, provision of best-in-class services and adoption of several measures to smooth the passage for patients as well as essential cargo movements have made the airport an invaluable addition to national healthcare infrastructure. CSMIA’s initiatives, dedication, and drive to vigilantly ensure a seamless journey during these challenging times have enabled the airport to provide a memorable experience filled with convenience for the patients as well as the airport’s stakeholders and cargo partners. CSMIA remains committed to fulfilling and surpassing its role as a facilitator of essential aid in support of the country as well as the globally sustained efforts of maintaining the momentum of battling the pandemic.