Air cargo movement via the Cochin International Airport here has been curtailed and export of mostly perishable items such as vegetables and fruits hit after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) restricted the operation of foreign ad hoc and pure chartered, non-scheduled freight services to six airports in the country.
There were no airports in Kerala being allowed to handle special cargo flights or ad hoc flights to move cargo with effect from October 1, following the DGCA order, said airport sources. The special cargo flight services will be available only from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
Most of the cargo operations via Kochi was handled till now by foreign airlines, especially those from the Middle East as most of the export items were headed for markets in those countries. The bulk of the cargo comprised fruits and vegetables as well as seasonal items.
While the airport handled between 100 and 150 tonnes of cargo per day during the pre-COVID days, the volume came down significantly after the pandemic restrictions came into effect. But with easing of business activities in several countries, cargo volumes were picking up when the new restrictions have come into effect.
CIAL handled 1,564 tonnes of cargo between September 1 and September 15, but the volume came down by around 500 tonnes to 1,044 tonnes between October 1 and 15, said airport sources.
Air cargo movement via Kochi is now handled using passenger flights. However, passenger flights carry up to 15 tonnes of cargo while special flights meant solely for freight can carry up to 50 tonnes. The new restriction means that exporters of fruits and vegetables will have to ship their consignments to the nearest airport where dedicated cargo flights are available.
Meanwhile, with COVID-19 restrictions still in place in the air transport sector, CIAL is handling just about a tenth of the flights it handled during normal times. The number of flights handled by the airport had come down to 20 to 25 a day, from the normal levels of over 240 flights per day, the sources added.