Air India is said to have rejected the government’s demand to convert some of its passenger aircraft into cargo planes by removing seats, although some private airlines have offered their planes to carry material from one city to another during the nationwide lockdown.
The government had only asked Air India to convert its passenger planes to cargo, which the national carrier feels is unviable.
“The government had asked us to convert some of our fleet to be used for transportation but that has not been accepted from our side,” said a senior Air India official, who did not want to be identified. “It would have required removing seats from the aircraft and getting further approvals to run it as a cargo plane, which involves cost as well as time.”
The government halted domestic passenger airline operations from Tuesday, putting a large chunk of air cargo capacity out of the system as almost all airline operators carry cargo in the bellies of their passenger aircraft.
The only Indian carrier with freighter aircraft in its fleet is Spice-Jet, which runs it under SpiceXpress brand, and can transport between 50 tonnes and 80 tonnes on its Boeing freighter aircraft.