Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jolt to Mihan as AI cargo service grounded-TIME OF INDIA

Jolt to Mihan as AI cargo service grounded

NAGPUR: While chief minister Ashok Chavan is trying to push Mihan, there is another shocker awaiting the prestigious project. National carrier Air India is almost ready to dump its freighter services that were supposed to use Nagpur's Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar International Airport as hub. Announced in 2007, the project was to be launched by converting Air India's old Boeing 737s into freighters.

Air India was supposed to launch the cargo services connecting six major destinations through Nagpur. It would have greatly added to the appeal of Mihan. However, the cash-strapped Air India seems to have abandoned the plan. In fact, it has offered the reconfigured aircraft for sale. This development is another jolt to Mihan after the India Post recently discontinued its 'night airmail service'.

A local Air India official, requesting anonymity, said the company had planned to operate AI's reconfigured aircraft in phases from Nagpur. However, plans have not fructified and now management has decided to shelve the project.

Another official in Mumbai said, "AI plans to sell six Boeing 737-200 freighters which were converted for cargo operations in 2007," he said. Apart from these aircraft, the airline had converted four Airbus A 310-300 into freighters at a cost of $ 40 to 50 million. Now Air India has invited tenders to sell all these aircraft, he said. AI General Manager, corporate communication, Chandrakumar however denied that plans for freighter service were cancelled. He said the 8 aircraft on sale were 20 -years-old and the sale had no relation with the project.

"The project is in pipeline and a decision will be taken in board meeting," he said. AI's cargo head Anita Khurana said she was not aware of plans to sell freighter aircraft. However, she said that the freighter service from Nagpur was on hold.

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