Emirates SkyCargo marks a year of PAX-freighter flights

Emirates SkyCargo operated its first passenger freighter flight a year-ago today.

The Dubai-hubbed carrier said that on March 16 2020, a Boeing B777-300ER passenger aircraft took off from Dubai and flew to Kuwait carrying only 34 tonnes of cargo.

It was the first time that Emirates had operated a cargo only flight on a passenger aircraft and came just four days after Covid-19 had been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Since then the carrier has operated more than 27,800 cargo flights carrying more than 100,000 tonnes.

Nabil Sultan, Emirates’ divisional senior vice president, cargo, said: “It has been exactly one year since what was considered impossible in the air cargo industry became not just a reality but a strong operational pillar for Emirates SkyCargo.

“Prior to the pandemic, nearly two thirds of our total cargo was transported in the bellyhold of our passenger flights. With increasing flight suspensions and restrictions on passenger travel imposed due to Covid-19 in early March 2020, we could foresee a situation where there would no longer be adequate cargo capacity available in the market to transport essential supplies.

“In order to bolster the cargo capacity offered by our 11 Boeing 777 freighters and make sure that we could meet the urgent demand for goods such as PPE, ventilators and other pharmaceutical goods and food supplies from across the world, we proactively made a radical and innovative plan to utilise our widebody passenger aircraft to operate cargo only flights.

“We trialled this passenger freighter concept with a flight to Kuwait on March 16 last year. Over the next few weeks, as regular passenger operations were completely suspended, we started increasing our passenger freighter flights to a point where we had close to 90 passenger aircraft being used for cargo operations.”

The carrier has also operated flights with cargo loaded on seats, in overhead bins and removed seats to boost carrying capacity.

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