DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Dubai’s long-haul carrier Emirates will begin shipping aid from the World Health Organization and other groups into India for free to help fight a crushing outbreak of the coronavirus, the airline said Sunday.
The offer by Emirates, which has some 95 flights weekly to nine cities in India, initially involves aid already in Dubai but may expand across the carrier’s network as time goes on. That could mean major savings for aid groups as airfreight costs have skyrocketed amid the pandemic. Demand for flown cargo stands at record levels worldwide.
Emirates made the announcement at Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, already home to a WHO warehouse that’s been crucial to the distribution of medical gear worldwide. A WHO worker on a forklift moved boxes of tents made in Pakistan and rolls of net shades from South Korea preparing for the initial flight planned for Thursday. That will be used to construct field hospitals for India’s overwhelmed health care system.
Nabil Sultan, the divisional senior vice president for Emirates SkyCargo, said the initial priority would be shipping aid out of Dubai, rather than elsewhere from its network. While airfreight costs stand at record prices, Sultan said offering free shipping for aid to India now was important for an airline that has flown to the South Asian country since the carrier’s founding in 1985.
“Our relationship with India in particular goes a long way and at times like this, I think it’s absolutely essential that we make sure that essential commodities get to India and to the Indian people,” Sultan told The Associated Press. “This is the time for us to give back.”
As India has grown into an economic power, so has Emirates and its base of Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel. The airline serves as a key link in East-West travel.
Passenger numbers from India for Emirates, just under 3 million in 2008, grew to 5.5 million a…