In FEB23 the carrier placed a mammoth order of 470 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, including 70 wide-bodies for intercontinental services. The first deliveries are scheduled for 2025. In addition, the carrier considers acquiring five or six Airbus A350F, local media report. Currently, the airline that belongs to the Indian TATA Empire, has 124 aircraft in its fleet.
Air India is facing a huge capacity increase in the coming years. This applies both to lower deck compartments of their passenger fleet and most likely also to main decks offered by freighter aircraft. If so, the once dilapidated state-owned carrier that was taken over by the private TATA conglomerate in early 2022, will catapult itself into the major league of cargo carriers. This will up the pressure on main competitors such as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways or Turkish Airlines which have gained a strong foothold in the Indian market in the absence of serios local challengers.
Cargo to become a significant revenue contributor
“We are exploring the possibility of inducting freighter capacity into the network, both directly and in collaboration with partners,” Air India management told Indian publication Business Standard upon request, adding that the airline expects “cargo sales to become a significant part of the revenue mix.” The paper goes as far as saying that “Air India could buy up to 80 freighters over the next 20 years to capitalize on the fast increase in e-commerce demand.”
High growth rate of air freight
Obviously, the carrier’s growing appetite for freighter operations is stimulated by the fact that government plans foresee an increase in cargo handling and throughput to annually 10 million tons come 2030 with Air India expected to contribute a large portion to that volume. However, until then, it’s still a long way to go, but the sector is extremely dynamic, as figures reveal. According to data delivered by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), from 2019 to 2020, a total of 3.11 million tons were processed.
Indian cargo bonanza
Recently, Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia predicted an annual growth rate in cargo of 18-20 percent over the next four to five years.
The forecasted cargo bonanza is triggered by the burgeoning e-commerce sector but also the industrial upswing of India’s economy as a whole and the fast rise of special items such as pharmaceuticals, electronics or IT products. Said this, air freight is on the way to becoming a main driver of trade and commerce in India, giving this industry a growing importance and louder voice.
Masterplan for airports
The upswing in Indian aviation also has a direct impact on the country's infrastructure policy. The Modi government wants to launch a large-scale construction and modernization program for airports. Aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia talks of 230 to 240 airports benefiting from the plans. This goes hand in hand with the growth of the fleets of Air India, Indigo, Air Asia India and others. Mr. Scindia said that the aircraft fleet in the country is anticipated to reach 1,200-1,400 by 2030, while a three-fold increase is expected in annual passenger traffic to annually up to 420 million travelers until 2030.
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