SpiceJet unveiled the first SpiceXpress Boeing 737-700 freighter in Delhi on September 10. (Photo: Neelam Mathews)
As India’s GDP hits a high of 8.2 percent and airline cargo belly space starts to exceed demand, Budget SpiceJet has become the first commercial airline to launch a dedicated domestic and international cargo airline, SpiceXpress. It will start operations to Bangalore from Delhi on September 18 and this year launch international destinations, including Hong Kong and Afghanistan.
Israel Aerospace Industries' (IAI) Bedek Aviation Group converted the SpiceXpress Boeing 737-700 freighter, which it acquired on an operating lease from Austin Texas-based Spectre Air Capital. The deal represents the first Spectre has ever completed in India, Spectre Cargo Solutions Kevin Casey told AIN.
The airline has ordered ten freighters and will receive a total of four by the end of the year, SpiceJet chairman and managing director Ajay Singh said. “Economy is a big driver of cargo,” he explained in an interview with AIN. “Increasingly, perishables have to be transported with speed and safety. Even organs for transplants comprise a large part of the sensitive cargo.”
The growing online retail business in India led by such companies as Amazon India and Flipkart has propelled growth to once poorly connected remote regions like the mountainous Northeast, for instance. Research firm eMarketer has projected retail sales to grow by 31 percent this year to touch $32.70 billion, primarily led by online companies. “There is a need to get those deliveries to the customer as fast as possible, hence the surging demand for time-definite delivery capability via dedicated main deck freighter aircraft,” explained Casey. “A prime example is the 737 freighter, a mainstay of hub-and-spoke freighter operations around the world, and for which demand is still ‘super strong.’”
SpiceXpress has started at an opportune time, as the Airports Authority of India (AAI) launches its own cargo terminals and cold storage facilities under an independent company. “We look forward to working with SpiceJet around the country at our airports,” said AAI chairman Guruprasad Mohapatra.
The government will soon release a cargo and logistics policy to ensure “a seamless multi-modal operation,” added state minister of civil aviation Jayant Sinha.