IndiGo will strengthen its cargo operations further later this year as it looks to introduce another aircraft to support its freight business. The airline plans to include a total of four converted A321 aircraft as it looks to tap the potential of the cargo segment in India.

Another plane by December

IndiGo will induct another Airbus A321P2F (Passenger To Freighter) aircraft by December to support its all-cargo operations. The first of such planes joined the carrier’s fleet in September, and three more will join progressively over the coming months.

In a post-earnings conference call, IndiGo’s CEO Pieter Elbers told analysts,

“On our Cargo operations, volumes have been increasing owing to our sheer network presence and we remain optimistic. CarGo “belly” capacity will be further augmented with the introduction of the first Airbus 321 freighter and we are also expecting second such aircraft to be operational by December.”

IndiGo Airbus A320neo

Photo: Airbus

He added that the dedicated cargo fleet will give the airline an added advantage on costs but also enable it uniquely to service markets like China, Vietnam, the Middle East, and certain CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries.

The A321P2F is part of Airbus’ larger cargo strategy, which is being worked upon through a program involving Elbe Flugzeugwerke GmBH, the joint venture company of Singapore’s ST Engineering and Airbus. The aircraft can carry 27 tonnes of cargo, nearly double the belly capacity of a standard A321.

Other players

India is currently going through a cargo expansion phase. Not too long ago, there was just one dominant all-cargo player in the country – Blue Dart. And while the Chennai-based airline still commands a lead in India’s domestic cargo sector, other players have lately joined the fray.

Last month, India’s newest all-cargo carrier, Pradhaan Air, officially began commercial service with a domestic flight between Delhi (DEL) and Mumbai (BOM). The airline operates the world’s first converted Airbus A320 freighter and will receive another one in the coming months.

Pradhaan Air is set up by the founder of the airline general sales agency Zeal Global Corporation, Nipun Anand, and will be based in Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.

Simple Flying also reported in August that QuikJet Airlines, an ex-Indian cargo-only carrier, was preparing for a return to Indian skies. A source close to the matter said that QuikJet 2.0 would fly Amazon Prime airplanes in India and that the airline has already taken its first aircraft, a 20-year-old Boeing 737-800 P2F.

Another budget carrier and IndiGo’s competitor, SpiceJet, is also trying to capture the cargo sector with SpiceXpress, a cash-positive enterprise with a net profit of $5.6 million.

SpiceXpress converted Boeing 737 freighter

Photo: Getty Images


Cargo opened up several possibilities for Indian carriers during COVID to generate revenue. IndiGo, too, started toying with the idea of a dedicated cargo fleet around the same time.

The cargo segment in India has had it better than the passenger side, as data from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) reveals that all operational airports handled 3.14 million tonnes of freight in 2021-22, or 94% of freight handled in 2017-18, while air passenger traffic at 85.1 million was 69% of the traffic recorded in FY18.

Although a slowdown in exports has affected the air cargo market in the country, the airlines are hopeful of making long-term gains by establishing freight operations over the next few years.

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