SPICEJET ADDS 737 NG FREIGHTER, MORE ON THE WAY
India-based low-cost carrier SpiceJet took redelivery of its maiden freighter, a Bedekconverted 737-700BDSF (29042, ex-Xiamen Airlines), to support the launch of a newly created cargo subsidiary, SpiceXpress [FATs 004645-4646]. The aircraft, on lease from Spectre Cargo, is the first of four Spectre-leased 737 NG freighters SpiceXpress plans to put into service over the next few months as part of the carrier’s initial foray into freighter operations.
In the coming months, SpiceXpress’ new freighter, “Bolt,” will be joined by three more 737 NG freighters – an additional -700BDSF and two 737-800BDSFs.
The freighter, named “Bolt”, represents a number of milestones, as it not only makes SpiceJet the first combination carrier in India to operate narrowbody freighters but is also the first 737 NG freighter in Asia. In the coming months, Bolt will be joined by three more 737 NG freighters – an additional -700BDSF and two 737-800BDSFs. Although local media reported SpiceJet’s forthcoming freighter redeliveries as imminent within the next couple of months, Cargo Facts expects redeliveries to continue into 2019.
While Spectre Cargo Capital has already acquired a number of 737-700 and -800 feedstock units for future conversion to freighter configuration, only one -800 (30498, ex-Transaero Airlines) is known to be owned by Spectre. This unit was inducted for conversion at Bedek’s Tel Aviv MRO last year, and will be Bedek’s first 737-800 P2F conversion. Like the 737-700BDSF delivered this week, the -800 is also bound for SpiceJet. A second -700 has also been inducted for conversion at the HAITE facility in Tianjin (TSN).
Apart from the -800 in Tel Aviv, Spectre has at least five additional 737-700s in storage at Singapore Seletar (XSP) and likely owns other units through various special-purpose vehicles (SPVs) stored elsewhere. Touch labor for SpiceJet’s first 737-700 conversion took just over three months, according to Cargo Facts’ FAT database. SpiceJet’s 737-700BDSF has a maximum payload of about 20 tonnes (45,000 lbs.) and is equipped with an Ancra Cargo Loading System.
Returning to India’s first 737 NG, we note that other Indian carriers such as Air India and start-ups like Quikjet have dabbled with freighter operations in the past, but to date have found little success. One exception has been Blue Dart Aviation, a company that started out as the air arm of Blue Dart Express and now serves a similar function for DHL, which bought Blue
Dart. Blue Dart Aviation commenced operations with a single 737-200F in 1995, and today operates a total of six 757-200Fs.
SpiceJet, however, is convinced that India’s recent ecommerce boom will be the catalyst that finally drives the development of a domestic air cargo market. Noting the influx of investment from e-commerce players like Amazon and Flipkart, Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director of SpiceJet, told reporters at a launch event for SpiceXpress that the market for time-sensitive express deliveries in India is positioned to become a significant business. The SpiceXpress freighter has already entered revenue service for the airline on routes between New Delhi (DEL) and Bengaluru (BLR). In the future, the carrier plans to begin opening international routes, such as Kabul (KBL) and Hong Kong (HKG).
A recent report from IATA also highlighted the potential of air cargo in India, alongside some remaining concerns. The country’s outbound cargo market surpassed 1 million tonnes in 2017, representing 16.9% year-over-year volume growth, while Mumbai (BOM) and Chennai (MAA) airports also grew their cargo handles by nearly 20%. Growth is supported by rising populations and average incomes, but difficulties doing business in the country could hinder air cargo growth from reaching its full potential in India. IATA noted two major factors – policy concerns and ease of doing business – that stand to impact the future of Indian aviation and that would likely affect air cargo. While the association said liberalization and policy stimulus would likely have positive effects on Indian aviation, the protectionist rhetoric that is currently dominating global trade conversations is likely to hold back growth in the country. Also, while India has improved its spot on the World Bank’s Ease
of Doing Business survey from 132 to 100 over the past
five years, continued improvement is “critical” to sustain
growth in aviation.