The Indian air cargo scene has been experiencing turbulent times during the past years. Once hailed as being one of the upcoming air cargo development areas, India has dropped somewhat and the national carrier, Air India has seen a drop back in cargo volumes on their aircraft, whereas foreign carriers have seized the majority share.
New light on the horizon?
A small but important step may well be in the making as far as the introduction of a new Indian dedicated air cargo service is concerned.
New Delhi-based domestic and regional carrier, SpiceJet has recently made it known that it will add freighter aircraft to their passenger fleet and engage in the transport of air cargo throughout India and on Asian regional routes.
SpiceJet which was founded in 2004 as Royal Airways operates in the meantime with a fleet of 57 aircraft. Almost thirty of these are Boeing 737 passenger jets and the rest are Bombardier DHC-800 aircraft which are mainly used on domestic Indian routes. The carrier has placed an order with Boeing for a further 155 B737-MAX8 jets as well as another 21 B737-800 series passenger aircraft. SpiceJet presently carries just over 4 million passengers per year but plans to triple this number within the coming years.
Air cargo as a new product line
SpiceJet will introduce their first freighter within the coming days. This is a converted (P2F) Boeing 737-800 aircraft which can carry almost 24 tons of cargo spread over twelve main-deck pallet positions and its two belly holds.
It is expected that SpiceJet will initiate the freighter with daily flights from the northern Indian airport of Guwahati to Hong Kong. It is said that the Northeast Indian region has much potential for the export of goods into Hong Kong. Which other routes will be added by SpiceJet remains to be seen.
It is not just only one freighter which SpiceJet will put into operation in the future. More than twenty dedicated freighters are expected to join the SpiceJet fleet within the coming four years. These will all be converted B737 variants which are said to originate from Boeing’s China facilities as well as from Israeli conversion experts, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Bedek aircraft conversion unit.
There is a distinct need for regional and Indian domestic freighters in order to supply outlying regions with air cargo. The SpiceJet decision seems to come at the right time and the question remains as to whether the Delhi-based carrier will expand further and add long-haul freighters, thus giving India a competitive international air freight product.
John Mc Donagh