Emirates SkyCargo’s freighter and bellyhold networks continue to branch out and this shows no signs of slowing down in the years ahead.
The airline is making use of its prime location between East and West and the strong growth in the Middle East. The carrier’s cargo manager in the UK, Phil Rawlings, tells Air Cargo Week expansion will continue, “in the face of strong demand, we will continue to add capacity to our cargo network, and are confident this will lead to continued growth throughout 2015 and in to 2016.”
Emirates SkyCargo launched a weekly freighter services to Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus (US) in May and to Ouagadougou Airport in Burkina Faso in January.
These have boosted cargo volumes and in the 2014-2015 financial year to 31 March, Emirates SkyCargo handled 2.4 million tonnes, up on the 2.3 million in 2013-2014. Revenues grew from $2.8 billion in 2013-14, to $3.4 billion in 2014-15.
Rawlings says the carrier has seen steady growth in both the Middle East and Africa and to traditional markets such as Australia, New Zealand and China. He says a mix of industries, which vary from region to region, are driving growth: “The clothing and pharmaceutical sectors have a significant impact on trade volumes across our global network,” Rawlings notes.
“We have the advantage of operating in an economically growing region, with lots of investment in infrastructure and development taking place – all of which bodes well for our cargo operations,” Rawlings explains.
“Being based in Dubai means we have the strategic advantage of our geo-centricity. We can move cargo across our network, between East and West and vice versa, with just one stop at our hub in Dubai, which is equipped with state of the art cargo facilities.”
Emirates SkyCargo operates bellyhold services to more than 240 destinations and Rawlings says capacity will continue to grow as more routes are added. “In addition to new routes, we can increase cargo capacity by deploying larger aircraft, or increasing the frequency of services on an existing route. For example, the introduction of a Boeing 777-200LR [longer range] to our Barcelona route in May added significant cargo capacity, with just over 230 tonnes added per week.”
Emirates continues to renew its fleet and last week it announced that it was retiring its last Boeing 777-200. The airline plans to enter into service 26 aircraft this year. Its fleet at the moment is 234 aircraft. In 2014 and so far this year, Emirates has retired three Boeing 777-200 and eight Airbus A340-500. Depending on the aircraft agreement, Emirates either returns them to the lessor or sells them on the market.
The move of its freighters from Dubai International Airport to Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central’s (DWC) has improved operations. Rawlings notes the new cargo terminal at DWC offers the capacity, which positions Emirates SkyCargo for “future growth” and enables the cargo division to provide a “better experience for its customers”. An issue the carrier is at the heart of the debate about is the subsidy and unfair competition allegations levelled at Gulf airlines by US carriers, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines. Emirates president, Tim Clark, says the methods employed by the US legacy carriers to discredit Emirates have been “surprising and frankly, repugnant”. He feels there are no grounds to ask the US government to freeze Emirates’ operations to the US or pursue other action under the countries’ Open Skies agreement.
Clark explains: “We are absolutely not subsidised, and our operations do not harm these legacy carriers, but instead benefit consumers, communities and America’s national economy.
“The subsidy allegations put forward are patently false. We have been profitable for 27 years straight, and unlike our accusers, we have never depended on government bail-outs or protection from competition.” Clark adds that expansion is funded through cash flow and debt obtained via banks and financial institutions.