The country’s largest carrier by domestic market share IndiGo is mulling launching dedicated freighter services amid an expected surge in cargo transportation, particularly to transport the Covid-19 vaccine, once it is available.
The airline has already held preliminary discussions with European aviation major Airbus on the type of freighters that could be possibly put into service for dedicated freighter flights, according to an industry source.
IndiGo, which has more than 250 planes in its fleet, is one of the largest customers of Airbus, especially A320 neo aircraft.
To a query on whether the carrier is planning to launch dedicated freighter services, IndiGo Chief Executive Officer Ronojoy Dutta said it was being studied as a proposal.
“This is being studied as a proposal. No final decision yet,” he told PTI.
The source said that IndiGo is looking to launch dedicated freighter services as it sees good demand for air cargo.
An IndiGo executive, who is into handling the airline’s partnerships and aero-political affairs, recently held initial level discussions with Airbus executives on the type of air freighter that could be used for such operations, the source added.
“The dedicated air freighter service, however, is expected to be a division within the airline,” the source said.
Cargo transportation raked in revenues for airlines when commercial air passenger services were suspended for a long period during the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
IndiGo clocked higher revenue by operating around 1,700 cargo flights between April 18 and September 7 as compared to the earnings over the last financial year. Specific figures were not immediately available.
Scheduled domestic air passenger services were suspended for two months from March 25 as part of efforts to curb spreading of coronavirus infections. The services recommenced on May 25. While scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended from March 23, overseas flights are allowed under various air bubble pacts.
As per estimates from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), cargo revenue worldwide is expected to reach a near-record and more than double to 26% of the industry’s total revenue this year.
“The potential size of the delivery is enormous. Just providing a single dose to 7.8 billion people would fill 8,000 (B) 747 cargo aircraft. Land transport will help, especially in developed economies with local manufacturing capacity. But vaccines cannot be delivered globally without the significant use of air cargo,” IATA said.