Friday, May 8, 2009

Air Deccan founder Gopinath to launch freight carrier

After launching India's first budget carrier, Air Deccan founder G.R. Gopinath Friday announced another first for the country - a door-to-door international freight and cargo service with its own fleet of aircraft.

The freight carrier 'Deccan 360', which has inducted one A310 freighter and plans to add two more next month, would begin operations May 27.

"We will start with one A310 freighter. We expect two more to be inducted by next month and three ATR aircraft later. There is tremendous scope for freight operations in India," Gopinath told reporters here. (ATRs are smaller regional transport aircraft).

The cargo carrier would operate on the Delhi-Chennai-Hongkong-Dubai sector in the first phase, and would target multiple industry verticals such as automotive spare parts, textiles, pharmaceutical, machinery and heavy equipment, banking and organised retail.

Gopinath, who owns around 8 percent stake in the merged Kingfisher-Deccan entity, said in Hong Kong alone, 200 cargo aircraft land and take off at the airport in 12 hours.

Maintaining that this was more than double the operation level at all Indian airports, he said: "Unlike in the west or even China, manufacturers and traders in our smaller cities or farmers growing cash crops are unable to compete in the international market because of limited transportation facility and connectivity."

Gopinath went on to add: "It is therefore critical that we create logistics that integrates the whole country seamlessly on a transportation and delivery network."

Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines too are planning to start dedicated cargo operations.

Similarly, smaller and new entrants such as Hyderabad-based Flyington Freighters, Bangalore-based Quikjet Cargo, New Delhi-based Aryan Cargo Express and Mumbai-based Avicore Aviation are also eyeing the sector.

Jude Fonseka, the chief executive of Deccan Express Logistics, the company that owns Deccan 360, told IANS the company would set up a state-of-the-art cargo hub in Nagpur, the first dedicated cargo airport in central India.

"Besides the 100-acre hub being developed by us at Nagpur, we have also signed up with the GMR group for setting up express cargo operating facilities in Delhi and Hyderabad airports," said Fonseka, who is also former managing director of the Indian operations of Federal Express Corp (Fedex).

"Definitely, the cargo business is more profitable than passenger business and we are enthusiastic about it," says Fonseka.

India's international and domestic cargo market grew by 10 percent in 2006, accounting for 1.5 million tonnes of cargo.

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