In an average year, Emirates SkyCargo moves about 1,500 cars, and has a specialist team to ensure they are handled with the utmost care.
Dennis Lister, vice president cargo commercial development for Emirates says the types of vehicles and clients are varied, but they are all handled with care.
Sometimes they are personal vehicles being transported for holidays or relocation, or manufacturers moving cars for testing or distribution to market. High end cars for racing events or collectors’ cars also get moved.
Personal vehicles traditionally get moved from the Middle East to European destinations in the summer.
In London, June to August is popular with wealthy Middle Eastern visitors keen to escape the heat in what is known as the ‘Ramadan Rush’.
Affluent areas, particularly Knightsbridge and Kensington are filled with Arab registered supercars for ‘Supercar Season’, much to the delight of car spotters though residents complain about the noise and disruption.
This is not the only time cars get moved, Lister says: “Some owners also tend to move their cars when they relocate to another destination whereas others get their premium cars transported to car manufacturers’ facilities to get them serviced by factory technicians in the best conditions. These tend to happen through the year.”
Whatever the car, whether it is the latest piece of exotica from a manufacturer such as Lamborghini, or a racing car or a classic, must be handled with care.
The Emirates Wheels product consolidates experience from transporting cars and outlines specific procedures for loading and unloading.
Lister says: “We have a team of car loading supervisors to ensure that the vehicles are correctly manoeuvred on and off the aircraft and who will also accompany the vehicle in case the handling agents at the various stations do not have sufficient expertise in this area.”
Two levels of cover are on offer, with the entry level airport-to-airport Emirates Wheels, which is popular for B2B customers. The door-to-door Emirates Wheels Select is popular with private individuals.
Safety is the primary consideration, and Lister admits it can seem over cautious, Emirates SkyCargo has a special reservation procedure for vehicles being loaded in the belly of passenger aircraft.
He adds: “Unlike a number of other airlines we will not engage the engine when loading or unloading the vehicle. This is done to reduce the possibility of heat damage to the car and to mitigate any risk to the aircraft. These were procedures that were put in place at the time of the launch of Emirates Wheels.”
Of the 1,500 cars that fly with Emirates SkyCargo a year, some are very special like the BMW M850i Night Sky, which was exhibited at the Dubai Automotive Show. The one-of-a-kind concept car featured a hand painted exterior and hand-crafted interior designs including the use of tiny pieces of a meteorite.
Four Mercedes Benz AMG GT63s were moved from Dubai to the Gumball Rally, which went from Mykonos to Ibiza, before flying them back to Dubai.
Lister says: “The cars were transported on our Boeing 777 freighter aircraft which has one of the widest main deck doors in its aircraft type allowing for easy loading and unloading of outsized cargo.”