Combined uplift capacity goes up to 300-350 tonnes a month
Air cargo uplift capacity from Tiruchi has gone up substantially as Tiger Airways, which operates direct services to Singapore from here, has started lifting cargo from here last week.
Tiger Airways is the fourth major airline to lift cargo from the city after Sri Lankan Airlines, Air Asia and to a certain extent, Mihin Lanka. Air India Express, the other major operator from the city, remains the only airline that does not lift cargo though it operates services to Singapore, Dubai and other destinations. According to sources at the airport, Tiger Airways started lifting cargo from October 15 onwards. Hitherto, cargo bound for Singapore from here were sent through Colombo or Kuala Lumpur.
With this, the total available capacity of the airlines for cargo exports from the city would be around 300 to 350 tonnes a month. Currently, Tiger Airways operates nine flights a week on the Singapore-Tiruchi-Singapore sector and is likely to add two more flights a week by October. Apart from this, Sri Lankan Airlines operates 14 flights a week to Colombo and Air Asia seven to Kuala Lumpur, all of which can carry cargo now.
Though the opening of the air cargo complex was widely welcomed, the industry in general is yet to fully utilise the available capacity. Currently, just about 200 tonnes of cargo is exported from here on average a month and during 2011-12, about 2,022 tonnes of cargo was exported from here. Perishables, mainly vegetables, account for nearly 90 per cent of the cargo exports from here with textile fabric and occasional medicinal supplies constituting the remaining 10 per cent. The exports were mainly to Singapore, Kuwait, Kuala Lumpur, Doha and even Male via Colombo.
With a holding capacity of 250 metric tonnes, the new cargo complex was expected to give a boost to the export and import of cargo at the airport following its expansion. Though industry sources feel that there was much scope for general cargo exports from central and southern districts, the potential is yet to be realized. Imports have also been negligible. Airport sources say there was scope for import of industrial and engineering accessories for the fabrication industry, including the power sector major BHEL and other general cargo. “Now the field is open for the industry to exploit and explore options for export of general cargo, other than perishables,” said a representative of the travel trade.
Representatives of freight agencies point out that Air India Express, one of the major operators from the airport, does not carry cargo now though Indian Airlines was doing so some years ago. Air India Express as a policy does not carry cargo and if they too open up, there could be more uplift capacity available at the airport, they say.