Air India (AI, Delhi International) is looking at acquiring dedicated freighters according to a report in The Business Standard. The airline is reportedly keen to snag a larger share of India's growing air cargo market. Currently, Air India flies cargo in the belly holds of its passenger aircraft.

“We are exploring the possibility of inducting freighter capacity into the network, both directly and in collaboration with partners," Air India told the outlet via an email statement. In February, Air India CEO Campbell Wilson told media that cargo would be a significant part of Air India's overall revenue mix in the future, and that capacity and systems to accommodate this would be built up.

Earlier this year, Air India placed a firm order for 470 aircraft split across various Airbus and Boeing family types. However, the order did not include any freighters. “The newly ordered aircraft, particularly the wide-body aircraft, comes with a lot of belly cargo space," said Wilson, when asked about this.

In 2022, India generated 2.25 million tonnes of air cargo, just one-tenth of that generated by the US market, and about 90% of the international cargo was carried by non-Indian airlines. However, India is expected to handle 2.5 million tonnes of cargo this year, and economic and trade growth is forecasted to remain strong for several years. "Opportunities do exist in domestic markets for further growth, particularly with regard to e-commerce contract operations," reads the 2023 India Air Cargo Outlook recently released by the Trade and Transport Group. "Opportunities exist for further freighter fleet growth to support international services, particularly in the widebody space."

India is currently home to three maindeck cargo carriers: SpiceXpress, Blue Dart Aviation, and IndiGo Airlines.