Delhi and Hyderabad Airports- Key Nerve Centers of the Covid-19 Vaccine Distribution Cycle

13 January 2021

The latest industry survey from Tiaca and Pharma.Aero has revealed that the air cargo industry is now more prepared for Covid-19 vaccine transportation operations than it was three months ago. The industry has clearly stepped up its efforts to get ready for the largest logistics effort ever seen including the airports, which are going to be key hubs for the vaccine distribution. With its largest connectivity globally, Delhi is slated to be one of crucial hotspot for delivery of Covid-19 vaccines for Northern India. While, Hyderabad has been notified as one of the designated distribution points for Southern India. At this backdrop, both Delhi and Hyderabad International Airport will be playing a crucial role in the entire vaccine distribution cycle.


GMR Group has three cargo terminals fully primed to take care of the vaccine distribution at this time of pandemic - with 2 cargo terminals at Delhi Airport and one at Hyderabad - GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo, a 100% subsidiary of GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited (GHIAL). On 12th January, 2021, both the airports handled the first consignment of Covishield - India's first Covid-19 vaccines. In Delhi, the Covishield shipment arrived in 34 boxes, weighing 1088 kg on Spicejet flight, SG8937. While, in Hyderabad the shipment arrived in Spicejet Freighter, SG7466 and consisted 31 boxes of Covishield vaccine. The Cargo teams of both locations handled the shipment with extreme care and caution. Everything was handled as per the special protocol ensuring cool-chain integrity. A dedicated Vaccine Task Force has been formed, with a nodal person, to ensure a seamless and high priority movement of Covid 19 vaccines through our airports.

As the gateway airport at India's capital, Delhi Airport is nation's largest Cargo Hub Airport, and also of South Asia region. It has two integrated Cargo Terminals having annual cargo handling capacity of 1.8 million MT which is scalable to 2.3 million MT. The two Cargo terminals of Delhi Airport has world-class infrastructure with Good Distribution Practice (GDP) certified temperature controlled facilities for handling temperature sensitive cargo like medicines, vaccines, etc. The temperature controlled Cargo facilities have a capacity to handle over 1.5 lakh MT per annum. In line with MoCA vision to create metro airports as Transshipment hubs, Delhi Airport has set up a dedicated 'Transshipment Excellence Centre' spread over an area of 6,500 sqm at the Airside for convenient and efficient movement of Transshipment cargo. This facility will help fast movement of Vaccines through Transshipment.

Down South, in Telangana, housed at Hyderabad, the pharma hub and vaccine capital of India, GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo (GHAC) has a major role cut out in the entire value chain of vaccine shipments to provide the necessary infrastructure for unbroken cool-chain for the global vaccine shipments to maintain the vaccine integrity. Operating since over 12 years, the Hyderabad Air Cargo Terminal offers a WHO-GSDP (World Health OrganizationGood Storage and Distribution Practices) certified facility with cargo handling capacity of 150,000 MT per annum. GHAC boasts of India's first India's first Pharma Zone with for handling temperature-sensitive cargo with various temperature zones with State-of the-art Equipment and Cool Containers to cater to Product specific requirements.

The air cargo terminals at both Delhi and Hyderabad are fully equipped with facilities having state-of-the-art temperature controlled zones with separate cool chambers ranging from +25 Deg C to -20 Deg C. These Cargo terminals are equipped with best in class cargo handling equipment, advanced screening systems, efficient storage and processing facilities, paperless processes etc. providing efficient Cargo handling services for International as well as Domestic cargo.


GMR Hyderabad International Airport Limited & GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo (GMR-HYD) and Dubai Airports have also joined hands to build an exclusive Vaccine Air Freight Corridor Product called 'HYDXB-VAXCOR' ('Hyderabad to Dubai global Vaccine Corridor). An MOU was singed on 29th December 2020. As per the MoU, GMR-HYD and Dubai Airports will be according priority to the temperature sensitive Vaccine shipments moving between GMR Hyderabad and Dubai Airports for further connections to various Continents as part of the "HYDXB-VAXCOR" and build this service offering as a key differentiator and value proposition for the Vaccine Customers and Logistics Stakeholders. GHAC is also working on several technology initiatives to provide high level of visibility for vaccine shipments.

Delhi and Hyderabad Airports, in association with clearing agencies, have also put in place processes for express movement of vaccines to and from the airport. 24x7 operations of the Cargo Terminals ensure that the services are available round-the-clock for uninterrupted supply chain and efficient operations. There are separate dedicated gates at the terminals for fast movement of Vehicles carrying Vaccine in and out of the airport. There is also a Truck Slot Management System at the Cargo Terminals where facility is provided to pre-book the arrival of trucks at the terminal.

In terms of airside infrastructure, Delhi Airport is the first and only airport in the country to have 12 dedicated Freighter parking bays, providing ample capacity for airlines to move cargo to and from the airport. In fact, cargo apron is capable to do three Nose Load operations seamlessly at single point of time. While GMR Hyderabad Air Cargo has the laurel of having inducted its own custom-built Cool Dolly, a mobile refrigerated unit for airside transportation of the vaccine till the aircraft, maintaining the cold-chain, which is scalable to meet the rising demands.

GHAC terminal has a large sized Dual view tunnel X-ray Screening Machine to maintain the integrity of vaccines cool containers while screening. GHAC is already handling various traditional vaccine shipments for global exports and imports.


Both Delhi and Hyderabad Airports have played a crucial role in distribution of COVID-19 related medical cargo during the two-month long lockdown. As part of Government's 'LifeLine Udan' and 'Krishi Udan' initiatives, Delhi and Hyderabad Airport operated by GMR Airports worked 24X7 as a nerve center for handling COVID-19 medical essential supplies through imports and channeling the distribution across the country.