Doncaster Sheffield Airport is one of many aviation organisations pivoting its core business in response to the coronavirus, delivering essential supplies such as perishables, medical supplies and providing a rapid response to deliver critical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the NHS 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 (DSA). 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 front-line staff.
In February, the airport was ramping up for a bumper season, with long-haul destinations due to take off for Cancun, Mexico, Sandford, Florida and Cape Verde. The 15th anniversary of Yorkshire’s favourite airport was looking forward to another record-breaking year for passenger numbers as airlines added more passenger seats to existing destinations and a number of new routes.
Fast forward to May and that plan looks quite different, as passenger flights have temporarily ceased, with some passengers 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.
Chris Harcombe, Aviation Development Director, Doncaster Sheffield Airport, said: “We took over 22 tonnes of PPE (over 5 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.
“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 15th 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.”
Andrew Wakeling, CEO of IMS Group of Companies, said: “We have been able to channel our years of expertise, and in-house quality and regulation processes to ensure the PPE we are bringing into the UK meet all relevant standards.
“Our top priority is to protect front line staff and ensure public funds are being used appropriately to source safe and reliable PPE and we are working around the clock with high levels of government to secure future consignments of much need high quality PPE."
Global supply chain management provider, Ligentia, previously leaned towards well-known retailers such as John Lewis, M&S and New Look. As the coronavirus closed the UK’s high street, Ligentia reshaped its business model to focus on essential areas of supply such as medical equipment and vital PPE.
Dan Gill, COO, Ligentia, said: “We have changed our focus to concentrate on providing support where there is the greatest need. Current projects include over 30 air charter bookings from China with a further 100 expected over the next two months linked to government and large medical organisations, moving PPE goods across the globe. Our head office is based in Yorkshire and we were aware of the freight capacities at Doncaster Sheffield Airport to enable us to deliver to the NHS frontline.”