Air Transport World

A one-way freight operation: Air India is boosting its cargo capacity as the country counts on exports to quench foreign-exchange thirst. (company profile)

New Delhi-Like other less-developed countries, India is hungry for foreign exchange with which to pay for the import of products such as advanced machinery, replacement parts and high-tech items. Air cargo in general and Air-India's cargo operation in particular are helping to appease the hunger. With recent expansion of Air-India services and government liberalization of some regulations affecting air cargo, they are expected to do even better.

The annual growth rate of the country's air-cargo business has been about 8.3%. Although air accounts for only a small fraction of India's 277 billion-rupee ($15.3 billion) export total. Air-India accounted for about one third of the air-cargo value, against two thirds for foreign carriers, and carried about half of all tonnage while providing only about 30% of capacity. Over all, 90% of total India air tonnage was carried on scheduled freighters and passenger aircraft, the remainder on charters.

These were among matters discussed at the last International Air Cargo Forum and Exposition in New Delhi. Although the presentations ranged broadly over the Pacific Rim and South Asia, in keeping with the forum's theme, "Air Cargo-World Commerce in the Asian Decade," much of the spotlight was on the host country and its international carrier, Air-India.

Air-India's cargo operations produced revenues of $195 million in the fiscal year ended March 31,1990, making "a substantial contribution to the airline's $41 million net profit," according to S. R. Gupte, acting chairman and managing director. Total operating revenues in the fiscal year came to $800 million.

In calender 1989, the last year for which official figures were available, Air-India ranked 19th among all IATA carriers in in scheduled international freight tonnes and 17th in scheduled international freight tonne-km performed, reporting 90,698 tonnes and 556 million RTKS, respectively. in domestic services, it carried 14,290 tonnes and produced 17.3 million RTKS.

Two ways to gain a favorable foreign-exchange balance are to promote exports and restrain imports, especially those that conflict with domestic industries. …

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