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June 15, 2024
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Almost 5.5 years after phasing out its last Boeing 747-400F freighters, Emirates is to reintroduce the type into its fleet again. The airline has secured long-term wet leases on two -400Fs to grow the freighter capacity, a step that is showing its strong confidence in the global cargo market in a current environment of volatility.Emirates SkyCargo wet-leases two 747-400Fs to grow capacity.

SkyCargo currently operates a fleet of eleven Boeing 777Fs and will take delivery of five factory-built 777Fs in 2024 and 2025. At the 2021 Dubai Airshow, Emirates announced a contract with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the conversion into freighters of four and later ten 777-300ERs. These aircraft will be delivered in the next five years.

“We believe even these additional planes will not be sufficient. By then, we’ll have the MRO set up to quickly and efficiently scale up our freighter conversion program if we needed to,” said Nabil Sultan, Senior Vice President of Emirates SkyCargo. The wet-leased 747-400Fs will give immediate additional capacity, he said. The aircraft will be deployed on the SkyCargo network to Chicago three times weekly and to Hong Kong nine times a week.

“The new aircraft mean we can expand our freighter network and amplify the connectivity with the main Emirates network. The new fleet mix also gives us more flexibility to serve our different customers even better,” Sultan said.

Emirates will also grow its belly cargo capacity when it introduces the Airbus A350 into the fleet in 2024 and the Boeing 777-9 in 2025. Compared to its big Airbus A380-fleet, the twinjets have more efficient cargo capacity.

Six 747-400Fs were operated before

Emirates operated its first 747-400F in 2001, adding three more in 2003 and 2004 on wet-lease contracts with Atlas Air. The contract for the fourth aircraft was discontinued in late 2008, while the first aircraft in was also the last out in April 2013. In May 2016, SkyCargo wet-leased two -400Fs from ASL Airlines Belgium but the contract was ended in December 2017. The aircraft in the main picture during UAE National Day in December 2015.

Although not officially confirmed, one of the 747-400Fs seems to have been wet-leased from Aero Transport Cargo. The aircraft has been operating between SkyCargo’s main hub at Dubai World Central and Hong Kong for the past few days, which is one of the routes announced by Emirates. An outside source stated that this aircraft is indeed operating on behalf of Emirates.

Nabil Sultan said in the release that “Emirates SkyCargo is also investing to develop new products and to speed up digitization and technology innovation. It is our ambition to lead the market in delivering specialist solutions that are fast, reliable, flexible, and efficient. More exciting developments to come. Stay tuned.” 

Cargo revenues

In its financial year 2021-2022, Emirates SkyCargo generated AED 21.654 billion in revenues compared to AED 17.106 billion in the previous year. This represented 37 percent of all revenues. It carried 2.139 million tonnes of cargo, of which 878 million was on full freighters and the remainder as belly cargo. In the Covid-year 2020-2021, the total number of tonnes was lower at 1.873 million tonnes, but the share of full freighters was bigger at 1.158 million tonnes.

Available tonne kilometers in FY2021-2022 were 36.4 billion versus 24.8 billion the year before, and revenue tonne kilometers were 21.6 billion versus 12.5 billion. Thanks to high demand and limited capacity, yields soared to 255 fils per RTKM in FY2021-2022, up from 229 fils the year before.

author avatar
Richard Schuurman
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016. Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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