Imports have exceeded export cargo and have contributed to this increase. Data from Airports Authority of India (AAI) shows that the airport handled 29,548 tonnes in April, 24, 473 tonnes in May and 24, 718 tonnes in June. There is not only a spike from the previous year when the pandemic was at its peak, cargo handling has begun to edge closer to the pre-Covid-19 times this year.
The airport used to handle around 30,000 tonnes of cargo on an average every month before the pandemic, said an official. It has now achieved around 80% of the monthly volume of pre-Covid time.
As cargo handling picks up, import volumes remain high and form close to 50% of the load handled in a month.
Though scheduled international flights are yet to be resumed, the airport is getting cargo flights from abroad, unhindered. New routes have also been opened up between destinations in Europe and Chennai.
On days when countries in the Middle East had banned passengers from India, passenger flights used to depart with cargo instead, said an official.
Though cargo handling has increased when compared to last year, the revival is not fast enough when compared to Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi, which are ahead of Chennai in total cargo handling.
In June, Chennai handled 26,504 tonnes while Bengaluru handled 30, 418. Mumbai handled 60, 971 tonnes and Delhi handled 72,481 tonnes.
After the initial lull in the first month of lockdown last year in April, cargo volumes started to rise as airlines began to move goods including medical equipment, medicines and other items for hospitals in May and June and in the subsequent months. “This helped revive cargo handling when passenger traffic was just a trickle. Domestic airlines carried cargo strapped to the seats last year. The upward trend continues. As businesses are opening, the cargo volume will go up further,” said an official.