The country’s largest carrier by domestic market share IndiGo is planning to launch a dedicated freighter service amid an expected surge in cargo transportation, particularly to transport Covid-19 vaccines once they are available.
The airline has already held preliminary-level discussions with European aviation major Airbus on the type of aircraft that can be 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 Airbus’ largest customers.
In response to a query on whether the carrier is planning to launch such a service, IndiGo Chief Executive Officer Ronojoy Dutta said it was being studied as a proposal.
“(This is) being studied as a proposal. (But) No final decision yet,” he said.
A mid-level IndiGo executive, who is into handling the airline’s partnerships and aeropolitical affairs, recently held initial level discussions with Airbus executives on the type of air freighter that could be used for such operations, the source quoted above said.
Cargo transportation raked in revenues for airlines when commercial air passenger services were suspended during the lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
IndiGo operated around 1,700 cargo flights between April 18 and Sept. 7.
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.
As per estimates from the International Air Transport Association, cargo revenue worldwide is expected to reach a near-record and more than double to 26 per cent 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 recently.