Air-India has started its dedicated cargo business. The first cargo aircraft, a converted Airbus A310 was on Wednesday flagged off by Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel from the Mumbai airport.
This dedicated freighter “ Narmada” has been deployed on the Europe route and will operate from Mumbai with stopovers at Bangalore, and Chennai to Frankfurt and Paris. Air-India, which also has a second freighter, will operate seven cargo flights a week with a total weekly capacity of 474 tonnes.
“We have achieved one more milestone with this service. Cargo is high on the government’s agenda. If UBS and Fedex can have 700 cargo aircraft each, why cannot India have 500 freighters in the next 10-15 years?” Patel said.
He said Nagpur would be India’s main cargo hub and the government was considering raising the foreign investment limit in cargo airlines to 74 per cent of the equity.
“Today we started the first dedicated freighter service and it will bloom into a full-fledged airline. Indian Airlines is converting some of its Boeing 737-200s into freighters and together we will form a network providing international and domestic cargo services. Indian Airlines’ freighters will be the nucleus of our operations.” Air-India Chairman V Thulasidas said.
Indian Airlines’ freighter aircraft will service the domestic and the immediate neighbouring markets while Air-India’s A-310s will fly to Europe. “We are also planning to start a cargo service to China and Japan. We will acquire long-haul capacities to operate cargo services to the US,” he added.
Although accurate data is not available, India is an emerging market for air cargo as numerous new carriers enter with belly-hold cargo, existing airlines add extra capacity and all-cargo carriers ramping up operations to the country.