BANGKOK, 25 March 2021: Emirates SkyCargo marked its one year of passenger freighter operations recently as one of the first air cargo carriers globally to introduce cargo-only flights on passenger aircraft to transport PPE and other essential supplies.

Coming just four days after Covid-19 had been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), EK 2503 was the first flight in Emirates’ history of operations to fly a cargo-only flight on a passenger aircraft, delivering about 34 tonnes of belly-hold cargo that was urgently required from Dubai to Kuwait on 16 March 2020. Since then, Emirates SkyCargo had operated more than 27,800 cargo-only flights on passenger aircraft in one year – as the cargo carrier worked ceaselessly to keep communities across the world connected to the essential medical and food supplies they needed during the pandemic.

Emirates divisional senior vice president cargo Nabil Sultan 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 belly hold 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.”

“Our passenger freighter strategy has been the backbone of our operations during the pandemic transporting cargo to more than 125 destinations across six continents. It has showcased our resilience as a global facilitator of trade and supply chains. With resumption and growth in passenger operations, we have started gradually moving towards our traditional model. Still, our passenger freighters continue to remain a strong component of the Covid-19 pandemic response,” Nabil added.

To meet the global demand for transport of PPE and essential supplies, Emirates SkyCargo followed up on the introduction of passenger freighter services with further innovations. It included loading cargo on passenger seats and in overhead bins inside the passenger cabin. ‘Mini freighters’ followed, and that involved the removal of economy seats in Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to make more room for transporting cargo. Emirates SkyCargo currently has 16 Boeing 777-300ER mini-freighters for cargo operations.

Emirates SkyCargo has operated more than 27,800 cargo-only flights on passenger aircraft during the last year. These flights have helped transport more than 100,000 tonnes of essential supplies, including PPE, COVID-19 testing kits, ventilators, pharmaceuticals, vaccines and food. This is the equivalent of cargo carried over 1000 full flights on the Boeing 777 freighter aircraft.

Emirates SkyCargo’s flights helped maintain food security in a number of import reliant markets while also providing an income stream to communities dependent on agricultural exports. The air cargo carrier also operated a record number of charter flights using passenger aircraft exclusively to transport cargo.

Emirates SkyCargo has been leading the global air cargo industry’s distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. The air cargo carrier has set up a dedicated GDP certified airside hub in Dubai for Covid-19 vaccines and has also partnered with leading Dubai based entities and with UNICEF for the rapid transport of Covid-19 vaccines to developing nations through Dubai. Emirates SkyCargo’s passenger freighters have also played a key role in the transport of Covid-19 vaccines.