With regulatory approval in place from the Indian aviation authority, Jet Airways plans to launch freighter operations in April with an A330-200F ACMI-leased from Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways.
At almost the same time, just across the Bay of Bengal, Thai Airways International will exit the main-deck freighter business and park its two 747-400BCFs
The moves may say more about the individual carriers than about the freight market in general. Thai has been losing money for some time, and the move away from freighters is part of a much larger move to significantly cut its fleet. Jet, despite competition from government-supported Air India, is doing well, and the decision to enter freighter operation comes with the blessing of (and probably with considerable expertise from) Etihad, which owns a 24% stake in the Mumbai-based carrier).
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that air freight demand is strong in India, and appears to be growing stronger almost by the day, as the country’s citizens flock to e-commerce. In fact, Cargo Facts believes that Jet and Etihad had originally hoped for a deal that would see Jet begin with one A330-200F on a two-year ACMI lease, to be followed by a second and third as demand grew, with all three ultimately on long-term dry lease. However, while the Indian government has made much of its desire to promote growth of Indian business and remove some of the red tape that has strangled that growth in the past, the Ministry of Civil Aviation granted permission only for a 6-month ACMI lease of one freighter.
On the plus side, the Ministry has granted Jet authority to operate the freighter internationally, as well as domestically, and Jet is reported to be planning service to Hong Kong, Hanoi, and Singapore; as well as to Bangalore in India.
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