The Federation of Telangana Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FTCCI) has appealed to the civil aviation ministry to restore Cathay Pacific & Lufthansa Freighter services facility at Hyderabad which was removed post Covid, to help maintain the competitiveness of the exporters and importers of Telangana.
The absence of direct international freight services in the Telangana capital is being sorely felt by the city’s pharma sector which accounts for 40 per cent of the total Indian bulk drug production and 50 per cent of the bulk drug exports. Hyderabad region also accounts for over 30% of all the vaccines produced globally.
Prior to the pandemic, Hyderabad Airport enjoyed good freighter connectivity to major global hubs with operations by Lufthansa Cargo (to Frankfurt) and Cathay Pacific Cargo (Hong Kong). These freighter services allowed local industries to seamlessly integrate with the global supply chains at competitive rates and rapid connections.
However, following the pandemic restrictions, operations of freighter airlines were removed from the ambit of the Open Skies policy in vogue and cargo operations were instead brought under Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) which were designed & intended to manage the operations of passenger services on international routes, the FTCCI has stated in its letter.
An unintended consequence of the above change 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 their overseas base. With the change in rule, such flights were restricted from connecting more than one Indian city in the same journey. With the cabotage restrictions already in place such flights were only carrying international cargo and no transportation of cargo between 2 Indian cities was permitted on such flights.
“Crucially for smaller metros such as Hyderabad, such two-port flights reduced the cost of global connectivity by ‘sharing’ a single flight across multiple cities (double-dipping) enabling smaller Indian cities to access global markets in a fast and economical way. Under these new rules, the 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. As highlighted previously, these were crucial trade links for local industries in Telangana, and these two carriers combined had carried a total of around 15,000 MT of cargo in FY2019-20, accounting for around 17% of the total international air cargo volumes handled at Hyderabad Airport during the period,” said Anil Agarwal, president FTCCI.
The FTCCI has requested the ministry to restore the earlier framework of Open Skies, in particular freeing cargo flights from the restrictive passenger BASAs and permitting double-dipping freighters and also permit the restoration of double-dip operations of Lufthansa and Cathay covering HYD as one of the ports.