Kaun banega crorepati?*
The Indian metropolitan airports in Delhi (1.018 million t) and Mumbai (965,000 t) experienced a high in 2018, but shrank again last year. Does this symbolise the end of the latest Indian airfreight boom? All of the participants in the Air Cargo India trade fair, scheduled for Mumbai at the end of this month, want to know the answer, and also hear more about business in India’s neighbouring states.
India’s population is expected to grow to almost 1.5 billion people in the next ten years, making it larger than China’s. Will the growing economic giant now finally create the requisite logistics infrastructure? In the airfreight segment, the 3.43 million t handled in 2019 represented a decline of 2.9% vis-à-vis 2018, which wasn’t catastrophic, in an international comparison. On top of this, new domestic maindeck options have been established by SpiceXpress in the months since the last Air Cargo India fair took place (see also page 45 of ITJ 11-12 / 2018).
South Asian reticence
Flag carrier Air India just cannot leave the turbulence behind it, however, and Jet Airways, the airline with the largest fleet in the history of the country, even closed down in April 2019. Over and above this, there is no exciting overall concept on offer from India that might equate to the state-run and private initiatives along China’s New Silk Road.
Restraint largely characterises the state of affairs in India’s neighbouring states too. For example in the large market of Pakistan (population 200 million), just over 300,000 t of airfreight were handled from mid-2018 to mid-2019. The figure for 2015 / 2016 stood at almost 350,000 t. Cross-border traffic is dominated by foreign airfreight carriers, with Emirates Sky Cargo (78,321 t, +27.4% vis-à-vis 2017 / 2018), Turkish Cargo (50,517 t, +144%) and Qatar Airways Cargo (34,301 t, –18%) leaving in their wake the various domestic players, including Pakistan International Airways (22,521 t, –23%).
Traffic in Bangladesh (whose population stands at 163 million) focuses on the capital Dhaka (DAC). The country is already a powerful centre for the rapid export of textiles and clothes, and is now also becoming ever more interesting for perishables. The Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association recently reported that in 2018, the country exported 253,000 t of airfreight and imported 131,000 t (based on figures from up-and-coming Biman Bangladesh Airlines, see also ITJ Daily of 7 January 2020). At the end of last year a ground-breaking ceremony was held at DAC for the construction of a third terminal. It will increase the hub’s annual cargo capacity from 200,000 to 500,000 t.
In the Himalayas and on the beaches
Airfreight doesn’t play a big role in Nepal, despite the fact that the country is landlocked. According to the national aviation authority, air cargo volumes declined by 6.3% in 2018 vis-à-vis 2017, to 24,200 t. Bhutan’s location in the Himalayas makes it even less accessible than Nepal. The country’s only international airport, Paro (PBH), is being modernised – with Indian support.
The Sri Lankan civil aviation authority stated that the country handled 268,500 t of airfreight in 2018, 0.8% more than in the previous year. Velana (MLE), the Maldives’ main airport, in turn, handled 64,650 t. The hub is expected to increase its throughput this year, thanks to a new freight terminal that will increase its handling area from 4,000 to 11,000 m2.
*Kaun banega crorepati is Hindi, means ‘who’s going to be the millionaire’, and is the Indian version of the TV quiz show ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’.