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Emirates is the largest operator of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with 134 jets in the fleet. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Emirates Flying Medical Supplies to Aid India’s Covid-19 Crisis

United Arab Emirates flag carrier Emirates announced on Sunday that it will fly medical supplies from its base in Dubai to nine cities in India free of charge from this week onwards to help the country battle a tragic and escalating upsurge in Covid-19 infections.

India reported 4,092 new deaths from the virus on Sunday, bringing its total to 242,362. Reported infections in the 24 hours prior to writing increased to 403,738, increasing the total since the pandemic started to 22.3 million.

The offer from the airline — which currently operates about 95 flights weekly to nine cities — comes as air freight costs have recently skyrocketed. This is due to air freight demand rising to its highest recorded level amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen various airlines, including Emirates, transport tons of cargo in otherwise empty passenger seats.

Emirates made the announcement at Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, which is currently home to a World Health Organization (WHO) warehouse that has been essential in the distribution of personal protective equipment globally.

Emirates has flown to Indian ever since the founding of the national carrier and has over time expanded its network into serving nine Indian cities. As India’s economic fortune has grown, so too has Emirates as a key link in East-West flights from its hub at Dubai International Airport, long one of the world’s busiest for international travel.

Pre-Covid-19 passenger numbers from India for Emirates were just under 3 million in 2008 and progressively grew to 5.5 million in 2018, with millions of Indians living in the United Arab Emirates serving as a key part of the Gulf country’s labor force.

Unfortunately with Covid-19, continuous waves and fierce outbreaks have been burning through India. Infections have surged there since February, fuelled by highly infectious variants. This has resulted in the United Arab Emirates’ ban on inbound passenger flights from India from late April, though cargo flights continued and passenger planes return with their seats now empty.

Helping India

Medical aid from countries worldwide has poured in for India as record-breaking daily infection and death rates have overwhelmed hospitals, depleting bed availabilities, medicines, oxygen tanks and other supplies. Earlier this month, Qatar Airways also airlifted approximately 300 tons of medical equipment from Doha to India for free.

Emirates will provide any spare capacity to transport medical supplies from Dubai-based charities, divisional senior vice president Nabil Sultan said in a statement, saying the mechanism could later be extended to bring aid from other parts of the world.

“We are absolutely committed to helping India,” he said.

Donated medical supplies will be organized through Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, whereby the medical supplies would be flown for free until further notice, Sultan said.

The first flight under the new “airbridge” is scheduled to depart for New Delhi on May 13 carrying 12.6 tons of multi-purpose tents from the WHO.

Emirates operates 95 weekly flights to nine Indian cities: Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi and Trivandrum. These flights offer about 5,000 tons of weekly cargo capacity.

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