“We believe a strong Air India is good for India and good for global aviation. We are always open to opportunities to deepen our ties with Air India,” Lufthansa said in an e-mailed response.
Lufthansa operates passenger flights and freighters to India. While the carrier does not feature in the top ten airlines in India on the passenger side, it was the eighth largest cargo carrier in the April-June quarter, with 3.4 per cent market share.
The German airline’s keenness for closer co-operation with Air India comes amid a strong recovery in its cargo business. Air India itself has announced an ambitious expansion plan to increase its cargo capacity by 300 per cent, with the addition of wide-body planes.
“Lufthansa Cargo has witnessed a strong recovery in India, with cargo volumes recovering to exceed pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2023. The outlook for the rest of the year is positive, with expectations of continued growth,” the airline said. Volume growth has come from exports in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, electronics and engineering goods.
“India is one the fastest-growing air cargo markets in the world. Air cargo demand is expected to rise as India’s economy continues to grow and its exports increase,” it added.
In the winter schedule, Lufthansa will launch flights connecting Munich with Bengaluru, and Frankfurt with Hyderabad. The Frankfurt-Delhi flight will be upgraged to an Airbus A380 aircraft next summer.
While the additional passenger flights will bring in extra cargo capacity, the airline is expanding its freighter operations. This includes additional flights to Asia, Africa and Mexico. The frequency to Hong Kong will be increased from six to seven weekly flights by routing via Mumbai.
“The market for airfreight is and remains volatile, but Asia and Mexico continue to be attractive, economically strong regions for us. The additional capacity of our 17th Boeing 777F in our long-haul fleet offers opportunities to specifically adapt the flight offering to the needs of our customers in these markets,” said Ashwin Bhat, CEO, Lufthansa Cargo, in a recent press release.