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India's SpiceJet, Bahrain's Gulf Air work to expand air freight volume


INDIA's low-cost carrier SpiceJet and Bahraini flag carrier Gulf Air have signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance their cooperation and better coordinate cargo services.

The move comes amid rapid growth of SpiceJet's cargo operation, SpiceXpress, that has been driven by flourishing e-commerce market. It benefited from the exit of Jet Airways, which was previously India's largest full-service airline with a 10-15 per cent market share of cargo flowing from India.

India's second-largest airline operates 630 daily flights to domestic and international destinations, including 50 destinations in India, with a fleet of 114 aircraft, mainly Boeing 737s. The carrier plans to add four freighter aircraft to its existing fleet of three dedicated B737 freighters during fiscal year 2019-20, reported American Shipper.

Gulf Air serves 47 cities in 26 countries with 82 weekly flights using 37 passenger aircraft. SpiceJet currently does not operate flights to Bahrain. Gulf Air serves eight destinations in India that mostly overlap with SpiceJet.

"Gulf Air also has strong cargo operations to Europe and Africa, and we can have strong cooperation with SpiceJet on strengthening each other's cargo businesses," said Gulf Air CEO Kresimir Kucko.

To underscore the extent of SpiceJet's focus on cargo, the carrier is seeking an initial public offering (IPO) of its one-year-old cargo unit. SpiceXpress could be taken public within 12 months, chairman of SpiceJet Ajay Singh hinted at in a September interview with American Shipper.

India's air cargo industry is anticipated to handle to 17 million tons by 2040, according to a note in SpiceJet's latest annual report.

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