Chinese state-owned Sichuan Airlines suspends cargo flights hampering COVID-19 medical supplies to India

China’s state-run Sichuan Airlines has suspended all its cargo flights to India for 15 days, causing major disruption to private traders’ efforts to procure the much-needed oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies from China.

This happened despite Beijing saying that India and China are in communication for COVID-19 assistance to India. The suspension of cargo flights came as a surprise to agents and freight forwarders who are frantically trying to procure the oxygen concentrators from China.

Prasar Bharati Correspondent in Beijing reports that in a letter to the sales agents on Monday, the Sichuan Chuanhang Logistics Co. Ltd, the company which is part of the Sichuan Airlines said the airline has suspended its cargo flights on six routes, including Xian to Delhi, amid hectic efforts by private traders from both sides to procure oxygen concentrators from China.

In the letter accessed by Prasar Bharati, Beijing, the company said looking at surging COVID-19 cases in India and to reduce the number of imported cases, it is decided” to suspend the flights for the next 15 days. The freight service was suspended despite Sichuan Airlines admitting that the suspension has caused great losses to its logistics company. The letter said the company will review the situation after 15 days.

Responding to a question on the issue, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin did not comment. He said that china has been following closely the epidemic situation in India and expressed sincere sympathy to the worsening situation in India. He said that China is ready to provide support and help to the best of its capabilities if India makes specific demands.

A representative of another Shanghai-based freight forwarding company told Prasar Bharati Correspondent in Beijing that there are also complaints of Chinese manufacturers hiking the prices by 35 to 40 per cent. The freight charges have been increased to over 20 per cent. The representative said that decision of Sichuan Airlines to cancel flights has caused severe disruption to attempts by private traders in both the countries to secure quick supplies of the Oxygen concentrators to rush to India in view of the dire situation.

Now it becomes very challenging to rush the supplies as they have to be rerouted through Singapore and other countries through different airlines, which delays the much-needed supplies, he said. The suspension of the flights owing to the coronavirus situation in India is surprising as there is no crew change in India and the same crew flies the aircraft back. The Chinese cargo flights besides the shipping services have been operational throughout the pandemic rushing supplies of lucrative mobile phone equipment as well as a lot of other Chinese exports to India. He also said the Chinese suppliers also resorted to “inhuman” practice of heavy jacking up of prices to cash in on the pandemic emergency.

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