India's airline industry which was heavily battered by the pandemic's onslaught is now gearing up to take the fight back to the virus via lending the key logistical support for anti-Covid-19 vaccine deployment.
The industry is expected to play a vital role in the country's impending anti-Covid offensive via vaccines.
Already at an advance stage of planning, the industry and especially its leading players have formed dedicated teams, new specialised logistical arms to safely and efficiently transport veils across India and potentially around the world.
Notably, the airline industry has the capability to quickly transport the temperature sensitive vaccines across the country from the pharma hubs of Hyderabad and Pune.
From a pure business standpoint, the integration of cold-chains, logistics and the last-mile delivery will boost the revenue stream of the sector.
Lately, the segment has become a lifesaver for the industry.
"Cargo operations have already gained pace for the airlines in the absence of adequate passenger traffic. And depending on the economics for the vaccine, air transportation is a probable option," said Kinjal Shah, Vice President, ICRA.
"This can definitely be an additional revenue stream for the airlines."
According to Vasudevan S. , Partner, Aviation, KPMG in India: "It is a huge business and revenue generation opportunity for India and can create new jobs as well, but the larger focus should be on nation building and stamping our reputation globally as a reliable ally and business partner."
Besides, Suman Chowdhury, Chief Analytical Officer, Acuite Ratings & Research contended that: "It is unlikely that such an activity will have strong profit margins at least in the initial stage since it is expected to be viewed more as a corporate social responsibility (CSR) particularly by the government."
On their part, some airlines plan to deploy a dedicated number of freighters, while others have formed a new logistics' arm.
A case-in-point is airline major SpiceJet, which has tied-up with logistics' firms to provide seamless end-to-end cold chain solutions for Covid-19 vaccine delivery.
Furthermore, SpiceJet's cargo arm, SpiceXpress launched a new specialised service, Spice Pharma Pro, dedicated to transporting Covid vaccines, medicines, blood samples and temperature-sensitive cargo.
With Spice Pharma Pro, SpiceXpress has said that it has the capability to transport extremely sensitive drugs, vaccines, blood samples and medicines in controlled temperatures ranging from minus 40 degrees Celsius to (plus) 25 degrees Celsius.
On its part, AirAsia India has marshalled a dedicated cargo services team for evaluating the special logistics requirement, such as temperature controlled containers, that may be needed for transportation of vaccine and are evaluating various measures to support the same.
"AirAsia India has expertise in handling different types of commodities, including perishables and is prepared to assist with cargo services for the transportation of Covid-19 vaccines," said Ankur Garg, Chief Commercial Officer, AirAsia India.
"Airlines and freighter services will have to work with shorter turnaround times which AirAsia specialises in, to deliver and meet the demand."
Without divulging details of its own plans, a Vistara spokesperson said: "At Vistara, we are fully committed to extend support to the government and look forward to contributing to this big mission to the best of our ability and resources."
As per IndiGo, it will evaluate the shipment of Covid-19 vaccines onboard its aircraft.
In addition to airlines many airports around the country including Delhi's IGIA have stated to make preparations to receive the vital cargo.