China Daily (Hong Kong)
Emirates ramps up cargo airfreight service in country
Emirates SkyCargo, the airfreight division of Emirates Airline, said China has been serving as an important part of its global network in boosting the company’s cargo business performance since the COVID19 pandemic.
Since mid-February last year, when the pandemic started to be brought under better control in China, Emirates fully resumed scheduled cargo flights to the Chinese mainland to transport medical supplies and goods between China and other countries. Its cargo businesses that connected the Chinese mainland and overseas markets were among the earliest to recover.
Last year, 87 additional charter flights were operated from the Chinese mainland on top of its scheduled flights, and the total tonnage carried on these flights reached nearly 4,000 metric tons, Emirates said.
“Since the pandemic, people around the world have shown a higher demand of working from home and using computers and other electronic products. Besides vaccines and medical equipment, we have seen a significantly growing demand of transporting computers from China to overseas markets, as China has a number of computer manufacturing bases,” said Michael Qu, SkyCargo manager of Emirates China.
“As one of the biggest consumption and manufacturing markets in the world, China has shown great potential for cargo transportation. The demand of transporting crossborder e-commerce products from China to overseas markets is also increasing. With the gradual restart of global manufacturing activities, we will continue to contribute to helping strengthen China’s economic and trade ties with the world,” Qu said.
The negative impact of COVID19 on the global aviation industry has been unprecedented. Last year, global international air passenger demand dropped 75.6 percent year-on-year, said the International Air Transport Association.
Airfreight has become a bright spot for the industry. The air cargo market saw a massive reduction in capacity available due to the restriction of passenger flights. However, demand for capacity to transport goods remained high.
Emirates saw a 22 percent reduction in tonnage carried by its cargo division in the 2020-21 financial year, while its total revenue from cargo operations increased by 53 percent year-on-year.
In 2020, the top five carriers ranked by scheduled cargo ton-kilometers flown were Federal Express, United Parcel Service, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Cathay Pacific Airways, respectively, according to IATA.
China Securities said the pandemic, coupled with a series of operational issues, has caused shipping capacity shortages and congestion at ports globally. The imbalance between supply and demand has been constantly increasing. The imbalance could last until 2022, and the mediumterm capacity growth potential is limited.
“The short-term boom in the air cargo transportation market driven by the pandemic is not a decisive factor for the sustained growth of the industry. The balance between supply and demand remains key to industry development in the long run,” Qu said.
In the 2020-21 fiscal year (AprilMarch), the cargo business of Emirates contributed to about 60 percent of the carrier’s total transport revenue. This year, the company estimated the proportion would decline, following the gradual recovery of passenger flights.
Currently, Emirates has resumed passenger flights to over 120 cities globally, representing 90 percent of its pre-pandemic network, and it plans to restore 70 percent of its capacity by the end of the year.
In the early stages of the pandemic, border closures in various countries led to the suspension of a majority of passenger flights globally, which resulted in a significant reduction in the belly-hold capacity of passenger flights for all airlines.
Since then, Emirates SkyCargo has converted 16 of its B777 passenger aircraft to mini-freighters to increase cargo capacity. After the renovation, it can use the modified economy class cabins and belly-hold operations to maximize its cargo transportation ability.
Meanwhile, a huge global demand has emerged for the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines, and it is likely to last until the postpandemic era. Emirates SkyCargo was the first airline globally to set up a dedicated airside hub for COVID19 vaccines.
As of September, the carrier transported nearly 250 million doses of vaccines to more than 80 destinations globally. Of that total, 40 million vaccine doses were exported from Beijing.
“Although COVID-19 created a temporary setback, it is expected that the bilateral trade between the UAE and China will continue to surge in the coming years as a result of the strong economic relations between the two nations. It will positively influence the air cargo industry,” Qu said.
Currently, in addition to bellyhold cargo transport on once weekly passenger flights between Guangzhou in Guangdong province and Dubai, Emirates SkyCargo is operating four weekly scheduled cargo flights to Guangzhou, eight weekly cargo flights to Shanghai, and a cargo flight to Beijing once a week. Those cargo flights are all operated with Boeing 777 freighters, and the cargo capacity of each flight can reach up to 100 tons.