The Indian aviation sector post the lockdown has been witnessing a slow recovery as compared to sea and road. It has been noted that while the domestic segment is lagging miles behind the usual number, it is the air cargo market that is putting its best foot forward in an attempt to gather some steam with exports leading the way to recovery for the sector.
As per numbers, the cargo segment is only a percentage lower than what it was in the pre-COVID times. With domestic flights on standstill for almost a period of 5 months, the airport operators and airlines gave more opportunities to the cargo of essential commodities being transported.
Mumbai International Airport (MIAL) saw 18,820 freighter movements between April and August, with general cargo volumes up 278% to 72,000 tonnes.
SpiceXpress, the cargo arm of Spicejet, also saw a big uptick in cargo volumes and revenue throughout the lockdown, due to the focus shift to freight with passenger travel becoming almost non-existent.
Last week, in its first-quarter results to June, the carrier claimed it had emerged as “India’s largest cargo airline”, with cargo revenue up 144% over the period, carrying 50,000 tonnes on 7,000 flights, of which 40% were international.
SpiceXpress operates a fleet of 13 cargo aircraft, and in August launched long-haul widebody cargo operations on two Airbus 340s to Europe, central Asia and Africa.
As per experts a major contribution towards the air cargo recovery is due to pharmaceutical, e-commerce and perishable goods.
It has been observed that airports are showing a much positive response in terms of exports that imports as PM’s call for Make In India and Atmanirbhar Bharat gains strength after the outbreak of the pandemic followed by the China-India political row.
While a recovery trajectory has been observed the airfreight capacity still remains tight due to limited operational passenger flight. Currently, only 13 bubble flights are operational where India has joined hands with partnering countries to open borders.
As per reports, many airlines are still using passenger converted charters and operating at 50% capacity. Also, the fright rates are higher than usual which is forcing shippers to use the combination of other modes such road, rail or ship.
Despite the given issues and bumps, the air cargo sector moves forward with an optimistic approach. It is believed that with the festive season around the corner and the anticipated upsurge by the e-platforms will contribute towards the air cargo capacity handles by airlines.
Furthermore, as the world awaits the COVID vaccine, India, which is a major pharmaceutical manufacturer and accounts for around 50% of the global manufacturing market, will derive growth for the air freight market later in the year.