Why India Has Been A Focus Point For IAG Cargo

IAG Cargo has had a significant presence in the Indian market this year, flying hundreds of flights since the lockdown. This includes the record-breaking flight for the group between Mumbai and London in September. IAG has added new routes from India and transported everything from COVID-19 therapies to fresh fruits during the pandemic. Let’s find out more about why India has become a focus country for IAG.

British Airways Cargo 747-8
IAG Cargo, through its subsidiary airlines, has flown well over 200 cargo-only flights since May. Photo: Milad A380 via Wikimedia Commons

Massive growth

IAG Cargo has rapidly expanded its footprint in India this year, adding more flights and destinations. Previously, most of the group’s operations were conducted through cargo carried in the belly of passenger British Airways flights. However, the suspension of international flights meant IAG began using aircraft for cargo-only missions out of India too.

When India first eased lockdown restrictions in May, the group added four services out of Mumbai Airport to meet the growing demand. According to IAG Cargo Magazine, the group saw so much demand from India that it decided to step up operations drastically.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

British Airways IAG Cargo
IAG has seen massive demand from India, prompting them to add four more cargo-only routes. Photo: British Airways

To meet the demand, IAG Cargo added flights from Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Chennai. This has brought the group’s total number of flights to 23 cargo and passenger flights (India reopened travel in July under travel bubble agreements). But why has IAG seen so much success from India?

Filling the void

Like many countries, India closed its borders to international flights in late March, severely impacting cargo capacity. Over 60% of global freight is carried in the belly of passenger planes, which means a grounding on all flights would cripple cargo operations. With passenger flights out of the picture, the demand for cargo services skyrocketed globally.

IAG Cargo has taken advantage of this gap in capacity, sending in passenger aircraft to fly cargo-only missions. These converted freighters (or “preighters,” if you will) has allowed the group to provide key cargo flights when most other airlines have their aircraft sitting on the ground.

IAG Cargo British Airways 777-300
The 777-300 became a frequent aircraft on the Mumbai-London route. Photo: IAG Cargo

When it comes to the contents of its cargo, IAG has carried a variety of products on its flights. Notable cargo included fresh produce such as mangoes, pharmaceuticals, vaccines for polio, rabies, and more, as well as critical COVID-19 therapies such as remdesivir. To summarize, the group says, “We’ve carried everything under the sun”.

IAG is not the airline which has seen substantial growth in the cargo division, Indian budget carrier SpiceJet has also seen its cargo revenue more than double due to the pandemic. Entering the market at the right time could have been the key to IAG’s success.

Will this continue?

The resumption of BA passenger flights means the number of cargo-only flights will decrease in the coming months. However, this year has likely helped the group immensely in building a robust cargo presence in India. This year has undoubtedly changed the dynamics of the cargo market, with more airlines interested in the segment than ever before.

What do you think about IAG Cargo’s India operations? Should more airlines grow their cargo divisions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!