Mumbai-based Jet Airways has announced plans to lease three A330-200F long-haul freighters from its Abu Dhabi-based partner airline, Etihad Airways.
Jet Airways said the move will help to meet competition from Dubai-based Emirates, which carried most air freight in and out of India in 2013 and 2014.
Jet Airways is also betting on a major upswing in India's air cargo activities, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recently launched Make-in-India campaign designed to encourage manufacturing and economic growth in India.
According to a report in India's newspaper the Business Standard, there is a major vacuum in the sector, as no major domestic carrier has its own long-haul freighter fleet. The paper said Jet Airways, which is owned by flamboyant business man Naresh Goyal, has already trained local staff for this new business activity.
Last April, Etihad Airways executive, James Gilliard, was appointed Jet Airways cargo manager for the Asia-Pacific region, based in Singapore.
From wet lease to dry lease
Jet Airways plans to start with an ACMI lease of one A330-200F in the next few months and later expand. As the business grows, the aircraft would be converted into dry leases, reports from India said. Earlier in February Etihad launched passenger service between Abu Dhabi and Kolkata.
“A wet lease would make sense while testing the waters, especially with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration downgrade (of Indian aviation) that prevents addition of new flights to the U.S.," Business Standard quoted a source as saying. It added that Gilliard is currently responsible for scouting cargo business opportunities in the Southeast Asian region.
“India is easily among the biggest opportunities for the air cargo business, where the competition is very limited. And, with the Make-in-India campaign, one can expect a huge growth in export sectors such as pharmaceuticals, automobiles and electronic equipment,” an executive with a global carrier, which offers air cargo services in India, told the newspaper.
More out than in
All Indian airlines operating into and out of India so far only offer belly-hold cargo with the exception of Chennai-based Blue Dart Aviation, which has a fleet of five dedicated Boeing B757 freighters. Government-owned Air India (AI) had stopped freighter aircraft operations in early 2012, due to financial problems.
In 2013-14, Emirates was leader in the air freight business by carrying 184,753 tonnes, of which 131,748 tonnes was outbound cargo. Jet Airways trailed with a total air cargo business 120,821 tonnes, of which outbound accounted for 67,186 tonnes. Air India was a distant third, with total business of 95,473 tonnes. In 2013-14, India’s international freight traffic grew two per cent to 1,261,542 tonnes.
Nol van Fenema