Two years ago, when the air cargo demand was going off the charts, flight operators found it profitable to invest in freighter aircrafts. Among those was also India’s major airplane operator – IndiGo. Even though IndiGo had been moving freight on their network by exploiting belly capacity, they took an ambitious decision to introduce passenger-to-freight (P2F) jets to their existing fleet.
Recently, two Airbus A321P2F aircrafts – VT-IKX and VT-IKW – were delivered to the low-cost operator, finally putting them in the league with those running a cargo-only segment. The VT-IKW is powered by a pair of CFM International CFM56 engines. The A321P2F can carry 27 tonnes of cargo, nearly double the belly capacity of a standard A321. The aircrafts delivered to IndiGo were transformed by Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), a joint venture of ST Engineering and Airbus – who also worked on the A321P2F for India’s youngest cargo airline, Pradhaan Air Express.
IndiGo is planning to take delivery of 3 more converted A321P2Fs in 2023, thereby, jumping onto the growing trend of cargo only aircrafts in India. It wants to leverage the untapped potential of air cargo in India, especially when there are not many players operating a dedicated cargo fleet.
“We are excited at kicking off a new chapter in IndiGo’s journey with the inaugural CarGo flights. Delhi and Mumbai are the two biggest commercial hubs in the country, and the response we have received from customers for our service offering is very encouraging. We expect the business to grow over the coming few months, as we expand our fleet of freighters and add new destinations to our CarGo network.”~ Mahesh Malik, Chief Commercial Officer – CarGo, IndiGo
The A321P2F has started servicing IndiGo’s network between Delhi, Kolkata, Yangon, Hanoi, and Hong Kong currently. While its maiden domestic flight was between Delhi and Mumbai, the international register first rang in November between Kolkata and Yangon (Myanmar), carrying general cargo with the payload of more than 19,000 kg. With this aircraft dedicated to East Asia from IndiGo’s hub in Kolkata, the other could be destined for the Middle East, China or Europe, depending on demand.
According to IATA, cargo operations in the Asia-Pacific region alone grew 2.7% from a year ago. The region also accounted for the highest cargo load factor in the world at 56.3% for airlines operating in the Asia-Pacific for July. So it will be safe to say that IndiGo is upping their ante to cater to domestic as well as international air cargo demand.
IndiGo also announced plans of setting up dedicated cargo facilities at various Indian airports throughout 2022. They would not only see an increase in revenue but will also support the movement of perishable and agri cargo within and outside India, thereby positively impacting India’s economic standing.
IndiGo’s CarGo can be booked to transport general cargo, small shipments and freight attached consignments, perishables, vulnerable cargo, dangerous goods, category-B biological products and lithium batteries.
On the passenger side, IndiGo’s A321Neo is has been expanding at a steady pace during the last two years. 2022 was no exception, with another 25 examples joining the fleet at a rate of over two per month. In total, IndiGo operates 77 A321Neos, tying it as the world’s largest operator of the aircraft with Wizz Air.