Airlines and airports registered strong cargo volumes in the run-up to Diwali backed by strong festive demand for purchases. 

While Bengaluru airport handled the highest domestic tonnage since its opening in October (16,173 metric tonnes), Mumbai airport said it handled an additional 2500 metric tonnes of cargo during the festive season this year.

“The air cargo demand at Bengaluru airport is better compared to last year and is better than pre-pandemic levels,” said Satyaki Raghunath, chief operating officer, Bangalore International Airport Ltd

Growth at Mumbai airport was led by e-commerce shipments that rose 87 per cent on a year-on-year basis. IndiGo and cargo airline Quikjet contributed to domestic volumes while Air India and British Airways led the international cargo movement with London as the top destination, Mumbai International Airport Ltd said on Sunday.

“The pre-Diwali rush was strong this year, and we were able to capitalize on this with the operation of a significant number of domestic freighter flights. As is always the trend, there is an expected softening in the market post Diwali, and this will last for a couple of weeks before we see demand bounce back in December,” IndiGo said.

Go First’s collapse and around 20 per cent year-on-year increase in freight rates also helped airlines such as Air India and IndiGo grow their revenue. Air India carried large volumes on wide-body Boeing 777 aircraft between Mumbai-Delhi too, it is learnt.

While Diwali brought cheer to cargo operators, growth has been slow this fiscal year. Competition from surface transport, the development of e-commerce warehouses in multiple locations, and higher airport handling charges are factors of concern. On a pan-India basis, while international air cargo carriage rose 1.9 per cent, domestic cargo handled by airports declined by 2.8 per cent between Apriland September, Airport Authority of India data shows.

IndiGo however remains upbeat about its freight business. “The India road network is certainly improving at a great pace in India, but we are not feeling the effect currently. There is still ample demand for speed-to-market goods, and the airline sector remains crucial for much of this cargo,’” IndiGo said. “IndiGo’s high frequency is a real differentiator for our customers, and we are managing to find the right price point where air cargo is still a value proposition,” the airline added