New Delhi: SpiceJet Ltd will start a dedicated air cargo service from 18 September as the budget airline seeks to capitalize on the boom in online retail in the country.

The company has inducted its first freighter aircraft—a Boeing 737-700—and has also prepared a blueprint to grow its logistics business, covering both domestic and international routes, it said in a statement on Monday.

SpiceJet plans to gradually expand its cargo operations from the existing 500 tonnes a day to 900 tonnes per day. It aims to increase its fleet of freighter planes to four by March next year. SpiceJet will begin cargo operations under the SpiceXpress brand from Delhi, Bengaluru, Guwahati, Hong Kong, Kabul and Amritsar.

“This is an extension of our ‘belly cargo’ service to a ‘dedicated freighter’ with Boeing 737 aircraft. We are very excited about the tremendous potential the logistics industry offers," said SpiceJet’s chairman and managing director Ajay Singh.

He said there was a huge untapped market for air cargo services in India. “Freighter aircraft will be acquired on pure operating leases and haven’t incurred any major capital expenditure, while the ground operations will be either self-handled by the existing SpiceJet ground infrastructure or shall be outsourced till we develop a certain scale of operations," Singh added, according to the statement.

SpiceJet currently offers cargo capacity on its passenger aircraft connecting 47 domestic and seven international destinations. It plans to grow its network to 150 destinations across India, rest of Asia and Europe, by 2022.

The company said air cargo traffic in India is expected to grow 60% over the next five years. The domestic logistics industry has grown at a compounded annual growth rate of 7.8% in the last five years and is expected to touch $215 billion in the next two years, it added.

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