Emirates embraces the new era of airfreight


Established in 1985, Emirates SkyCargo is the airfreight division of Emirates and one of the largest international cargo airlines in the world. Through 300+ destinations across 80 countries in 6 continents, it connects the world’s supply chains via its hubs at Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Dubai World Central (DWC).

Emirates’ strategic location, alongside major investment in its infrastructure and people, places it in a unique position to facilitate trade in a re-globalised world. By scaling its fleet, network and specialist handling capabilities, the Emirates SkyCargo business will grow significantly over the next decade, as it rolls out new product offerings to meet a wide range of sector needs.

Emirates has been expanding its network operations swiftly in recent months. It has reintroduced services to five cities, launched flights to Tel Aviv as a new destination, and added 251 weekly flights to existing routes.

READ: Emirates SkyCargo launches new bespoke solutions for Life Sciences and Healthcare

Global perishables hub 

Emirates SkyCargo’s core offering centres around four key verticals; pharmaceuticals; perishables; valuables; and mail and courier. The 2021-22 financial year saw its annual tonnage cross 2.1 million, an increase of 15%. Pharmaceuticals tonnage in particular grew by 17%, with the carrier finding that perishables are making up a larger proportion of the demand it’s experiencing.

Time-sensitive goods are an area where air cargo has a prime advantage as the most reliable and resilient mode for valuable and valued produce. “With the extensive cool-chain facilities we have in place at our terminals in Dubai, combined with the five-hour transit time we can offer between the arrival of goods and their departure, we expect this cargo type to continue to increase in volume,” Nabil Sultan, Chief Cargo Officer at Emirates, explained.

The carrier’s cargo terminal at DWC, which handles all cargo from our freighter aircraft, has 15,000 m2 of dedicated storage for temperature-sensitive goods such as pharmaceuticals, fresh fruits and vegetables and seafood. Every day Emirates SkyCargo transports an estimated 500-600 tons of perishables on its flights across the world, making this a key aspect of operations.

“Perishables remain extremely important to Emirates SkyCargo, as evidenced by the investments we’ve made in infrastructure over the last five years. We were the first airline to bring in cool dollies, for example, to allow for temperature control on-ramp, and also hired specialist expertise to manage these products with integrity end-to-end,” Sultan said.

READ: Emirates SkyCargo and Air Canada enhance cargo interline cooperation

Evolving industry 

The landscape for international trade has become more complex with new markets, routes and customer requirements. Emirates SkyCargo has sought to counter this with forward planning and continued investments, putting it in a strong position to serve customers across many high-value industries that require specialist logistics capabilities and expertise.

The cargo carrier is confident of a continued growth in demand, with one of its priorities being expanding its facilities. “We’re in a new era of re-globalisation, with supply chains being reconfigured to withstand disruptions while meeting the demands of rapidly emerging markets. A mixture of strong e-commerce demand, alongside stabilised cargo rates, has defined the airfreight market so far this year, and the broad trajectory points to strong growth,” Sultan said.

Certain industries have relocated their manufacturing hubs to new countries and regions to spread risk, including Vietnam, China, Cambodia, India, and Bangladesh. Demand from these places has steadily increased, and air cargo demand remains robust despite more challenging macroeconomic conditions, including high inflation.

With Emirates SkyCargo’s central hub located in Dubai, it finds itself in an ideal location geographically to help support customers with these developments. Combined with the significant investment made in its infrastructure, Emirates SkyCargo has a strong ability to shift capacity to where it’s needed and meet ever-changing demand patterns from all industries.

“Our strategic central location in Dubai means we can reach 2.5bn people within four hours and this opens up all manner of possibilities for partnerships in new markets that provide the stability needed for trade,” Sultan explained.

“We also recognise there are carriers and logistics partners out there with their own strengths and networks that are complementary to our own and are pleased to have recently formed partnerships with United Cargo and Air Canada Cargo, significantly expanding our footprint in Northern America. With a shared goal of adding value for our customers, building further alliances in the future is something we’re continuously reviewing,” he continued.

Dubai’s infrastructure, especially its airports, sea ports, and road network, has received significant investments. By blending its entrepreneurial culture with these resources, Emirates SkyCargo has been able to connect Sea Air Cargo using bonded trucks, completing the journey from port to aircraft in less than four hours. This achievement is just another example of Dubai’s longstanding role as a central trading hub.