First of Air India’s A-310s sent to Germany for an all cargo configuration has been delivered in Dresden on Tuesday, after four-month-long conversion process. The freighter is scheduled to arrive in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Never before, in the 75-year history of Air India, has any of its aircraft been converted for cargo operations. Global leaders in military transport and freighter aircraft, European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company (EADS) NV, converted the 16 year-old passenger aircraft, one of the youngest in the A-310 fleet. Another A-310 currently undergoing a conversion at EADS is scheduled to arrive in a few weeks.
The cost of conversation per aircraft is approximately $7 million and the payback period is around four years, said airline officials. Air India director (Finance) and spokesman S Venkat confirmed the development.
Air India has decided to deploy this freighter in the Kerala-Gulf sector to cater to the increasing demand from importers and exporters. From June onwards, full-fledged cargo operations will begin in this sector. The airline is planning to dedicate a fleet of 10 to 12 cargo aircraft in about three years; a separate profit centre of the yet to be merged entity.
Air India will be converting six more A-310s in a phased manner.
One of the major reasons for phasing out older aircraft from passenger operations is frequent technical snag they generate. Incidentally Airbus has stopped the production of A-310s.
Once the fresh batch of Boeing aircraft join passenger operations, Air India will convert few of its Boeing 747-300 combi aircraft into freighters. These freighters will be deployed in the European sector.
Presently, passenger aircraft of Air India generates Rs 400 crore from cargo operations. “The all cargo operation will generate a revenue growth of 10 to 12 per cent. Apart from converting our older aircraft into freighters, we will also hire cargo capacity to emerge a major cargo carrier in the next three years,” said a senior official.
Currently, Air India’s market share is 8 per cent of imported cargo while that of 11 per cent of exported cargo.