The Federation of Telangana Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FTCCI) has appealed to Union Ministry of Civil Aviation to intervene and restore freighter services of Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa at Hyderabad.
Stating operations of freighter airlines were removed post-COVID from the ambit of Open Skies policy and cargo operations instead were brought under the Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs), the trade and industry body highlighted how significant international direct freight connectivity was for Hyderabad, particularly with the region accounting for 40% of total bulk drug production and 50% bulk drug exports from the country. Hyderabad region also accounts for over 30% of all vaccines produced globally, it said.
In a representation to Union Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal, FTCCI president Anil Agarwal said Telangana has high dependency on air cargo for exports of finished goods and imports of raw materials. A consequence of the shift to BASAs was the curtailment of two-port landings by foreign carriers flying a multi-stop circuit route within India, dropping off/picking up international cargo from multiple Indian cities before heading back to overseas base.
Under the new rules, Cathay Pacific flight previously operating Hong Kong – Delhi – Hyderabad – Hong Kong or the Lufthansa flight operating Frankfurt-Mumbai-Hyderabad-Frankfurt on a single journey is no longer being permitted. These were crucial trade links for local industries in Telangana and these two carriers combined had carried a total of around 15,000 tonnes of cargo in 2019-20, accounting for around 17% of the total international air cargo volumes handled at Hyderabad airport during the period, Mr Agarwal said.
With the curtailing of hopping flights, Hyderabad has seen reduction in freighter connectivity. Given global supply chain disruptions, capacity and pricing were already major challenges for the exporters who now are facing higher charges, with freight rates to US and EU out of India at all-time highs. The curtailment of Open Skies has further contributed to making air cargo unaffordable and made exports unviable, particularly for perishables such as agri products, fruits and vegetables.
Indian carriers operate no wide-body freighter aircraft and even the handful of narrow-body freighters in the fleet presently lack the capacity and range to serve important global markets such as North America, Europe and Far East that account for the majority of India’s international trade in goods. “We request your good offices to intervene and restore the earlier framework of Open Skies... it would help maintain competitiveness of exim trade in our State,” Mr. Agarwal said.