Hyderabad: With Thai Airways commencing its Bangkok-Hyderabad-Frankfurt cargo freighter service, Lufthansa already operating four freighter services a week and others expressing keenness to connect, Hyderabad airport is aiming to become India's first cargo hub.
A Thai Airways Boeing 747-400F landed at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) on Thursday and later left for Frankfurt.
The service connects the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport directly with Fareast and European countries and adds to Thai Airways' four weekly A330 operations. Thai Airways officials said they would soon announce their further plans for Hyderabad.
With its central location, world class infrastructure, free trade and special economic zone, huge presence of pharma sector, Hyderabad is ideally suited to be a cargo hub.
GMR Hyderabad Airport International (GHIAL), which runs the airport, is in talks with airlines and industry to develop the hub, said its chief executive officer Vikram Jaisinghani.
"The areas around Hyderabad and cities like Visakhapatnam, Nagpur and Pune all can be best served by Hyderabad," he said, pointing out that major airports like Mumbai cannot expand further.
During 2011-12, Hyderabad airport handled 82,000 tonnes of cargo, a growth of 15 per cent against the national average of 11.2 per cent. GHIAL expects 8 to 10 per cent growth this year.
Presently pharma accounts for 70 per cent of exports. The other major sector is defence equipment. GHIAL officials said this could all change as they are working on cargo hub strategy to cater to several Indian cities.
Lufthansa is already operating four freighter services on Mumbai-Hyderabad-Sharja-Frankfurt route. "More major freight operators will come to Hyderabad soon," said DP Hemanth, Chief operating officer, hub development, cargo, free trade zone, GHIAL.
The cargo apron is expected to be ready by October this year and the work will begin soon. The apron, being developed at a cost of $4 million, will be equipped to handle all wide bodied aircrafts.
Hyderabad's cargo terminal is India's first modular integrated cargo facility spread over 14330 square metres with a capacity to handle 150,000 MT annually. This terminal also has India's only dedicated pharmaceutical handling zone.
The pharma zone offers a temperature controlled environment for handling temperature sensitive pharma products to maintain the cold chain during the shipment process from shippers factory to end users.
The airport operator is also working on Road Feeder Services (RFS) which allows safe, secure and reliable transportation of shipments to key cities in India via road.
RGIA also engaged in discussions with global trunk route freighter airlines to route their network via Hyderabad.