Indian low-cost airline Spicejet is planning to have four freighter aircraft in service this year, said Ajay Singh, managing director of the company.
The airline would operate the cargo services under the brand name ‘SpiceXpress’, said Singh, adding that it has a detailed plan for domestic as well as international routes.
The airline will launch the operations on September 18 and the first flight would be from the national capital to Bengaluru.
According to Singh, the company was seeing a good demand for the freight services.
Singh added that the four freighter aircraft will have a total capacity of 40,000 tonnes. The airline is expected to reach a capacity of near one lakh tonnes in the coming years.
SpiceJet would be the first scheduled domestic airline to start dedicated air cargo services in India. A Boeing 737-700 plane has been inducted as the first freighter aircraft.
As per the airline, the air cargo services would boost its ancillary business growth.
“To begin with, the air cargo operations will cover Delhi, Bengaluru, Guwahati, Hong Kong, Kabul and Amritsar,” the airline said in a release. Among other items, the airline said it would ship perishables like farm fresh fruits and vegetables to the Middle East.
Jayant Sinha, the minister of state for civil aviation, said there are only five freighter aircraft in India currently and added that the ministry is working on a cargo policy. Sinha said the aviation cargo segment is growing by 10 percent.
The air cargo traffic in the country is expected to grow by 60 percent in the next five years, as per estimates noted by PTI.
According to a recent International Air Transport Association (IATA) report, cargo volumes from India hit the million-tonne mark last year and the country saw a year-on-year growth of nearly 17 percent.
India’s top air freight trading market is the UAE, which has a 30 percent share, followed by Qatar at 11 percent.
Mumbai and Chennai were among the world’s top 10 fastest-growing airports in freight terms, the IATA report said. Mumbai has seen a 18.1 percent growth while Chennai has seen a 17.2 percent.
Sinha said that India's freight cargo segment is not seeing a growth as rapid as the passenger segment, reiterating the struggles the country has faced to up its game in its freighter operations.
The IATA report said India has its strength in two key air cargo markets – pharmaceuticals and e-commerce - which can help resurfacing the talk of freighters and tap the potential growth in the segment.
(With inputs from PTI)