Emirates is considering an order for Boeing Co. or Airbus SE freighters and may convert more passenger jets to expand its cargo fleet.
The carrier, which aims to double freight capacity in the next decade, hasn’t decided between Boeing 777-8 freighters and Airbus 350Fs, and could take another four years to commit to either, Emirates’ cargo chief Nabil Sultan said. The airline’s cargo fleet is currently all Boeing. Some of its more than 100 Boeing 777 passenger planes could be converted for cargo use too.
The company “will evaluate, hopefully by 2027, whether we require a different mix to what we have already,” Sultan, divisional senior vice president of Emirates SkyCargo, said in an interview at an industry conference in Singapore.
While cargo yields have fallen from their Covid peak, they remain 20% above pre-pandemic levels. Demand is also increasing in the lead up to Christmas.
“We’re probably at a much more stable stage now,” Sultan told Bloomberg News. “We’ve passed the bottoming out. We’ve seen consistent growth.”
Global air cargo demand grew 1.5% in August from a year earlier, the first increase in 19 months, according to the International Air Transport Association. Middle Eastern carriers saw a 1.4% on-year rise in cargo volume, continuing a three-month upward trend, while capacity was 15.7% higher than August 2022.
Emirates SkyCargo has 11 dedicated Boeing freighters and added two wet-leased 747 cargo planes during Covid. It also ordered five new Boeing freighters a year ago and is converting 10 Boeing 777-300ER passenger jets.
“We have a lot of opportunities to convert a lot of these aircraft,” Sultan said, adding that the company can get almost another 10 years of service from planes that are switched to the cargo side.
Emirates as a whole has an order backlog of 200 widebody planes, a number that will grow as it replaces Airbus A380s over the next decade. It already operates over 250 widebody passenger aircraft.
Emirates’ SkyCargo unit generated $4.9 billion revenue last financial year. The airfreight division of rival Qatar Airways logged $5.6 billion in revenue in 2022. Those two are among the top three biggest cargo carriers by international capacity, jostling with FedEx Corp. for the top spot.
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