IndiGo Inducts First Freighter and Launches Dedicated Freight Service

India’s largest airline IndiGo today inaugurated its first cargo plane in a bid to launch a dedicated cargo service.

The airline inducted an Airbus A321 freighter, which was converted from a passenger plane to a full freighter configuration in Singapore.

The plane will be used for domestic and international missions carrying products such as valuables, express shipments, perishables, general cargo, documents and mail, IndiGo said.

“The CarGo business generated revenue when scheduled commercial flights were at a standstill,” said Mr. Mahesh Malik, Chief Commercial Officer of CarGo, IndiGo.

The A321 freighter will offer 24 container positions and will support a payload of up to 27 tonnes. These are being converted as part of a program involving ST Engineering and Airbus with their joint venture, Elbe FlugzeugWerke (EFW).

“The aircraft is uniquely capable for IndiGo, using our current large pool of A320 Family pilots, and capable of serving markets between China in the east and the Gulf in the west, not to mention the CIS countries. (Commonwealth of Independent States) to the north,” IndiGo said. The airline is in the process of converting three more A321CEO passenger planes into freighters.

Indian airlines are increasing their cargo capacity as the segment has emerged as a crucial and promising revenue stream during the past two years of the covid pandemic.

India’s dedicated freighter fleet has witnessed a dramatic increase of 28 aircraft from 5 in the past few years. This number is expected to increase further as Indian airlines seek to add aircraft dedicated to cargo operations, which have held up better than the passenger segment amid the covid pandemic.

According to data from the Airports Authority of India, all operational airports in India handled 3.14 million tonnes of cargo in 2021-22 (April-March). This represents 93.5% of the freight handled in 2017-18 (April-March). The picture is grim for air passenger traffic. Air passenger traffic in 2021-22 (April-March) amounted to 85.1 million passengers, or 68.8% of the traffic recorded in 2017-18 (April-March).

The number of dedicated cargo fleets in India is expected to grow further as established airlines like IndiGo, SpiceJet and Bluedart seek to onboard more aircraft for cargo transportation. In fact, there will be more entrants over the next few months in the form of cargo-only QuikJet and Pradhan Express.

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