Russia’s largest cargo carrier switches from scheduled to charter operations to China

Volga-Dnepr Group operates ‘sterilised’ charter flights to the Coronavirus-hit country

Volga-Dnepr Group Volga-Dnepr Group is able to continue operating flights into China despite the current disruption to the airfreight market

The unpredicted impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak on airfreight has forced some dramatic operational changes at Russia’s AirBridgeCargo (part of the Volga-Dnepr Group), resulting in a switch from scheduled to charter operations from 4th February. With a reduced schedule, some of AirBridgeCargo’s operational teams have been transferred to shift working patterns, and employees in China have being allowed to work remotely.

It means that the Volga-Dnepr Group is able to continue operating flights into China despite the current disruption to the airfreight market. Flown commodities currently include essential items in response to the Covid-19 outbreak such as facemasks, sanitising gels, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. In addition to this, the Russian specialist carrier’s fleet is being relied upon to keep global supply chains moving by supporting some of China’s largest companies. On average, three to five charter flights are being operated daily by Volga-Dnepr Group, with a number of preventive measures being taken to ensure the safety of personnel, cargo and aircraft accordingly, claims the company.

Several factors have affected the stability of demand for air transportation since the viral outbreak. Whilst the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency has decided to temporarily limit passenger air traffic between Russia and China as of 1st February, there are no current restrictions to cargo airlines. Furthermore, China has also imposed restrictions on passenger movements, both inside and outside the country, with usual operations suspended by a number of Chinese enterprises.

Each flight department of all the airlines in the Volga-Dnepr Group, which includes Volga-Dnepr, AirBridgeCargo and Atran, have received counter measure briefings, with personal protective equipment purchased and distributed to all flight crews. At the same time, the centralised Volga-Dnepr Group medical department has introduced regular monitoring of all flight personnel, regardless of the global location of each flight’s operation.

Meanwhile, a working group for operational monitoring and response to the situation has been established at the company’s headquarters to ensure that it is able to respond to any immediate developments.

Employees of the Volga-Dnepr medical and flight departments have also held discussions with officials from the World Health Organisation, as well as Rospotrebnadzor, which is Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing, and other entities, on methods for personnel protection, handling and disinfection of aircraft and cargo.

Volga-Dnepr is considering the introduction of a ‘Clean Charter’ product that will ensure the secure transportation of shipments during difficult epidemiological conditions that, because of its unique cargo fleet, the company has historically been called upon for support.

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