India-based IndiGo has selected the A321 freighter with which to expand its cargo business and will become the country’s newest freighter operator in 2022.
Chief Commercial Officer Willy Boulter confirmed to Cargo Facts that IndiGo has signed a letter of intent with a lessor for an initial two aircraft, and said that another two will follow, likely with a different lessor. Boulter said the carrier expects to finalize that deal in a matter of weeks.
While Boulter declined to identify the lessors or the aircraft at this stage, he told Cargo Facts that the first two A321Fs are currently under fifteen years old, and that the next two are likely to be in the same age range.
By comparison, all the other A321s that have been or are currently being converted, owned by Vallair and BBAM, are at least five years older and built between 1998 and 2000.
IndiGo’s A321s will be converted according to the Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW) STC, with the first unit arriving in the first half of 2022.
Boulter told Cargo Facts that IndiGo had freighter aspirations even before the pandemic, given solid relationships with shippers and forwarders. Operating dedicated main-deck freighters was the next logical step for IndiGo, but amid the pandemic the carrier has gained significant experience with its cargo-only flights — with cargo loaded in the cabin — and has had exposure to new markets and opportunities, it said.
The choice of the A321 platform was an easy one; as of Dec. 31, 2020, IndiGo had a fleet of 287 aircraft, consisting of 231 A320s, thirty A321neos and twenty-six ATR 72-600s. But aside from fleet commonality, the A321F is an extremely competent freighter and ahead of any other narrowbody type, Boulter said.
Apart from domestic routes, IndiGo is looking at flying the A321Fs to destinations including Singapore (SIN), Bangkok (BKK), Dhaka (DAC), Hong Kong (HKG), and cities in the Gulf.
Boulter told Cargo Facts it may consider growing further beyond the four A321P2Fs, but at the moment is not looking at any other types.
Just this week, SpiceXpress CEO Sanjiv Gupta said at Cargo Facts Asia that India could “easily absorb” another ten narrowbody freighters. That carrier is looking to grow its own freighter fleet.