SpiceJet Operates Long-Haul Cargo Flights Using An Airbus A340

Budget carrier SpiceJet has becomes the first Indian airline to operate a non-stop cargo service between India and Europe. Yesterday, the airline’s cargo division, SpiceXpress, used a freighter to fly between Amsterdam and Mumbai, carrying 13 tonnes of cargo using an Airbus A340. The same aircraft is due to set another airline-first by operating a flight to Sudan today. This is the operator’s first widebody aircraft.

Airbus A340-600 cargo freighter spicexpress
SpiceJet’s cargo division, SpiceXpress, has added a widebody A340 to its fleet. Photo: Airbus

Extending its reach

SpiceJet is setting off to explore new markets and new destinations with its first widebody aircraft. However, the airbus A340 isn’t carrying passengers; it’s carrying cargo. The airline only took delivery of the plane earlier this week and is already using it for some major operations.

Previously the airline operated to mainly regional destinations and, at a maximum, stretched as far west as Ukraine in Eastern Europe. However, it has now extended its operations to include Amsterdam.

According to Hindustan Times, on Friday, a SpiceXpress cargo plane took off from Amsterdam at 22:50 local time. The aircraft then landed in Mumbai at 10:54 local time in India. However, the airline isn’t resting on its laurels. The same plane will operate the airline’s first non-stop flight to Africa today. The plane will leave Mumba to fly to Khartoum in Sudan.

In a statement, Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director of SpiceJet said,

We successfully operated our first widebody long-haul flight from Europe. The induction of our first Airbus A340 cargo aircraft has significantly enhanced our operational capability and will allow us to operate non-stop cargo services across the globe to destinations in Europe, Africa, and CIS countries.”

SpiceXpress is the biggest cargo carrier in India. It has a fleet of nine aircraft, including its new A340. Photo: SpiceXpress

Cargo operations

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, SpiceJet’s dedicated Cargo operations have been a lifeline, not only for the airline’s finances but also for India’s supply chain. For the first quarter of the year, the airline’s cargo operations increased by 94%. Since March, it carried another 31,800 tonnes of cargo, that’s more than double all other India carriers combined.

The new A340 has joined a fleet of nine cargo aircraft. Currently, SpiceJet has five Boeing 737s, three Bombardier Q-400s, and the latest addition, the Airbus A340. Cargo has been crucial to the airline’s survival in recent months and looks set to continue to be a significant part of the airline’s operations.

Previously, SpiceJet only operated a fleet of narrowbody aircraft. However, it recently wet-leased an Airbus A330 for passenger operations and has now added the A340 for its cargo routes. While this does move away slightly from the previous business model, it does show the airline is diversifying and extending its reach.

SpiceXpress has been a financial lifeline for SpiceJet in recent months. Photo: SpiceXpress

The airline now operates cargo routes to over 42 international destinations. This includes Amsterdam, Rome, Abu Dhabi, Baghdad, Bahrain, Bangkok, Cairo, Colombo, Dhaka, Doha, Dubai, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kabul, Kathmandu, Khartoum, Kuala Lumpur, Kuwait, Myanmar, Shanghai, Singapore, Tashkent, and Ukraine.

A new angle for SpiceJet

If the new A340 and its foray into long-haul operations are successful, we may see SpiceJet looking to compete with some of the larger international cargo companies. In terms of finances, its certainly one of the airline’s saving races right now. With plenty of long-haul, widebody aircraft still grounded, the airline has already snagged a leasing agreement for its passenger A330, so we may see it snap up a few more at a reasonable price.

Do you think SpiceJet will look to explore this area of the market? Will it be successful, or should it stick to what they already do? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.