Doncaster Sheffield Airport is one of many aviation organisations pivoting its core business in response to COVID-19, delivering essential supplies such as perishables, medical supplies and providing a rapid response to deliver critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the UK National Health Service frontline.
Ideal Medical Solutions (IMS), a UK distributor that specialises in supplying surgical equipment to medical and surgical professions used its industry base relationships to source large volumes of high-quality PPE from China. Global supply chain manager Ligentia has changed focus from retail to manage its transport to the UK, chartering freight flights to land and offload at Doncaster Sheffield Airport. Each of the organisations have changed the focus of their business plan to adapt rapidly to the current crisis, working together to deliver high quality PPE to NHS frontline staff.
In February, the airport was ramping up for a bumper season, with long-haul destinations planned, including Cancun, Mexico; Sandford, Florida; and Cape Verde. Indeed, in its 15th anniversary year, Doncaster Sheffield Airport was looking forward to record passenger numbers with more seats added to existing destinations and a number of new routes.
Fast forward to May and that plan looks quite different, as passenger services have temporarily ceased, with some flights expected to recommence from the middle of the month, the levels of freight and cargo have doubled from this time last year. The focus is on critical items such as medical equipment, perishables and food, as well as outbound humanitarian aid, such as the supply of solar fridges.
“Today (7 May 2020), we took over 22 tonnes of PPE (over five million pieces), sourced by IMS, shipped by Ligentia, landed and disembarked by the cargo and operational team at DSA, some of which will go directly to the NHS frontline,” says Chris Harcombe, Aviation Development Director, Doncaster Sheffield Airport. “Ordinarily, May would be the start of our summer season with passengers setting off on their holiday. The outbreak has halted our passenger operation for the time being, whilst our cargo throughput has doubled from this time last year.
“We’ve handled 5,000 tonnes of freight in six weeks since 15 March across 60 flights. March and April traffic is up 45% against the same period last year and we have over 300 tonnes of PPE scheduled to come through Doncaster Sheffield Airport. We also have over 500 tonnes of perishables coming through every week on its way to supermarket shelves.
“Doncaster Sheffield Airport is extremely proud to be playing its part in the ongoing fight against the coronavirus. Our operational teams – engineering, fire crew, cargo and air traffic control – are working around the clock to keep freight moving, getting it where it needs to be as quickly as possible.”