SpiceJet has flown its first long-haul cargo flight from India this week, using a wet leased A340-300. The carrier flew from Delhi to Frankfurt on Wednesday, carrying 45 tonnes of supplies. The widebody is a part of SpiceXpress, the carrier’s freighter arm, and India’s only airline with a dedicated cargo fleet.
On the return leg, SpiceJet flew from Frankfurt to Mumbai before returning to Delhi later that day. This marks the airline’s first long-haul cargo flight from India, days after it flew its first long-haul cargo flight to India.
Cargo flights ramping up
SpiceJet has made full use of its cargo aircraft during this pandemic. Due to the ban on all passenger flights between March and May, the carrier pivoted to using its fleet of 737 freighters to carry essential cargo. Since March, the carrier has flown over 6,000 cargo flights and carried nearly 33,300 tonnes of supplies, beating out all other domestic carriers.
Seeing the success of these flights, and the likelihood that passenger flights will take a while to rebound, SpiceJet is doubling down on the freighter strategy. The carrier acquired a converted A340-300 from Hi Fly last week to start flying long-haul cargo flights.
SpiceXpress is India’s only carrier with a dedicated fleet of cargo planes, a strong advantage it has over its rivals, which can only carry cargo on seats. With the entry of the A340, SpiceJet now serves 43 international destinations. No competition on many of these routes means that the carrier can make significant revenues from its freight operation.
Long-haul cargo routes
SpiceJet is now expanding into long-haul cargo flights, just weeks after it did the same with passenger flights. As mentioned, the carrier is wet leasing an A340-300 from Hi Fly, the same airline from which it leases the A330neo for passenger operations.
Registered 9H-JAI, the 22-year-old A340 previously served both Emirates and Singapore Airlines, before being taken over by Hi Fly Malta in 2017, according to Airfleets.net. While initially a passenger plane, earlier this year, Hi Fly removed the seats from the aircraft to make room for more cargo.
The aircraft has quickly become a workhorse for SpiceJet, flying rotations to Almaty, Tashkent, and Khartoum in the last week, in addition to its long-haul routes, according to FlightRadar24. SpiceJet will fly the A340 to Vietnam tomorrow from its base in Delhi. It’s clear the plane will play an important role in the airline’s fleet.
Rapid expansion continues
The last month has seen SpiceJet rapidly rise from a regional budget carrier to an airline with serious long-haul ambitions. Teaming up with Hi Fly, the operator has now flown two long-haul passenger flights and many cargo flights. SpiceJet has also secured a slot at Heathrow and has permission to fly to the US, despite not owning any widebodies.
Despite the success of its cargo flights, SpiceJet is still financially struggling. The airline racked up a huge $108 million loss in the first quarter of the year. However, cargo is the one area SpiceJet continues to shine and will likely continue to do so.
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