At least four new cargo airlines are waiting to take wing. The list includes Shreyas Shipping & Logistics, First Flight Couriers, TNT India and Flyington Freighters, a venture floated by media company Deccan Chronicle in association with a commercial pilot.
At present, Blue Dart Aviation is the only dedicated freighter in the country. The cargo movement last year was 1,374,062 tonnes - 479,656 tonnes domestic and 894,768 tonnes international, according to Airports Authority of India.
Shipments within India are now carried in belly-hold space on domestic airlines and subsequently in trucks, vans and small delivery vehicles. The dedicated freighters could change the scenario, pointed out analysts.
The Mumbai-based coastal shipping company Shreyas Shipping & Logistics is planning to acquire freighters to move bulk cargo domestically. Shreyas Shipping Executive Director Anil Devli confirmed that the company was looking at options of acquiring cargo aircraft.
"We are strong in coastal shipping and now the focus is on landside infrastructure including warehouses and a logistics park. The next phase of expansion could be offering service via air," Devli said.
A Flyington Freighters source said, "We are not acquiring any aircraft in the wake of high fuel prices and pilot salaries. We are watching the scene and looking for the right business model."
International aerospace major BAE Systems' arm BAE Systems Regional Aircraft recently signed long-term leases with courier company First Flight Couriers Private Ltd for three ATP freighters, which will be used by the company to start its own freighter operations.
The company is poised to enter a new phase of growth and development with the creation of a domestic freight airline. Once we have our own aircraft to carry our shipments, we can tailor our products to offer better service," said First Flight Couriers deputy managing director RK Saboo.
Integrated logistics and express company TNT India, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dutch integrated distribution company TNT NV, also plans to induct dedicated freighters to India.
TNT's parent company is flying 40 freighters across the world. Blue Dart Express is planning to acquire two Boeing 757-200 aircraft by the middle of this year for dedicated night operations.
Blue Dart currently operates five Boeing 737 feighters connecting Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
"This acquisition will help us to handle 250 tonnes per night against current 166 tonnes per night. We will also add Ahmedabad as our seventh aviation centre soon after inducting these two freighters," said Blue Dart Senior Vice-President (marketing & projects) Tulsi Nowlakha Mirchandaney.
Meanwhile, national carriers Air-India and Indian Airlines are in the process of ramping up their cargo operations in a phased manner. Indian Airlines is planning to convert five of its Boeing 737s into freighter aircraft.The airline would use Nagpur as hub to offer express and retail courier services. Air-India has firmed up plans for cargo operations by leasing two aircraft.
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