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IndiGo Looks to Initiate Freight Operations
India’s low-cost airline, IndiGo, is looking to purchase four Airbus A321s and converting them to freighters. These aircraft will be the first freighter aircraft in the airline’s fleet and the plan for the full freighter configuration comes as demand for air cargo consistently increases.
In a statement made on April 21, IndiGo announced that it was in the process of purchasing four A321s for cargo conversions. The process makes the airline only the second private passenger airline after SpiceJet to have dedicated freighter aircraft.
“A Letter of Intent has been signed with a lessor for two aircraft already, and Indigo expects to reach an agreement for the next two shortly. The initiative will make the best use of the natural synergies that IndiGo offers, using the same pool of pilots and engineers that fly and service its current fleet,” the airline said in its statement.
The first A321P2F (Passenger to Freighter) will be delivered to the airline in the first half of 2022, with the remaining three to be arriving within the following year. The aircraft will be used for both domestic and regional cargo missions, and any further aircraft may be sourced in the future depending on market development.
For Airbus, the A321P2F is the ultimate opportunity to break Boeing’s monopoly in the single-aisle freighter market. With the Boeing 737Fs having been around for many years, the European aircraft manufacturer has been lacking behind.
Having partnered with ST Engineering to create the joint venture of Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), the conversion of a single-aisle passenger to freighter aircraft eventually became a success. It all came together when the conversion aircraft received certification in February 2020 and with the first delivery completed in October. Qantas, on behalf of the Australia Post, was the launch operator for the first A321P2F.
Currently with over 2,000 A321s in service today, the market for future conversions will be bigger. as Airbus also highlights that the A321P2F is the most efficient narrow-bodied freighter available, offering 28 metric tonnes of cargo with 24 container positions and supporting a payload of up to twenty-seven tonnes. In terms of flying range, the aircraft can fly 2,051 nautical miles (3,800 kilometers).
The conversion mainly features a large main cargo deck door which is hydraulically actuated and electrically locked, with a cargo compartment that is equipped with a full rigid 9g barrier for the best protection between crew and cargo, and a redefined flight deck that includes supernumerary seats. There has even been keen interest from customers on the outlook of a future A321P2F unit entering the market
IndiGo will be the launch customer for the A321P2F in India and could potentially become the largest operator in the future too, as the airline currently operates an extensive A320 family fleet with over 250 aircraft and hundreds more on order.
“IndiGo was already the largest carrier of cargo in domestic India before Covid-19, and we expect the market to continue to grow after the pandemic. Our investment in the Airbus Freighter Programme will help strengthen our product and services in the segment, and will not only help accelerate our own business recovery but also be a strong engine of economic growth for the country,” Ronojoy Dutta, chief executive officer at Indigo was quoted in the statement release.
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