Air India launches dedicated cargo service

Mumbai: State-run Air India has launched its first dedicated cargo service with operations initially to Europe and is likely to extend the services to the US, Middle East, Far East and Southeast nations.

With the newly launched freighter operation, Air India expects its cargo revenue to cross US$122 million in the current fiscal year mainly by catering to high demand for such services from Europe and other developed countries.

Air India's launch of dedicated cargo services is in line with the dedicated services offered by other major airlines in the world, such as Air France-KLM, Thai Airways and Singapore International.

"With the dedicated cargo service, we are looking at about 15 per cent growth in cargo revenues this year," the airline's spokesman S. Venkat said.

The airline reported cargo revenue of US$109.72 million in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2007, mainly on belly cargo.

Riding on an economy that is growing over nine per cent per annum, Indian carriers hope to cash in on the rising cargo traffic, estimated by the government to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 11.5 per cent over the next five years.

Air India has already converted two Airbus A310 passenger aircraft into freighter planes. One Boeing 737 from sister carrier, Indian Airlines, is currently being converted into a freighter. Indian Airlines and Air India will merge by mid-July and additional aircraft from the joint fleet will be converted for dedicated cargo services.