Etihad Air
Etihad and Emirates are pulling in their passenger aircraft on their cargo delivery schedules. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: UAE’s airlines are scaling up their cargo operations and adding new destinations to compensate for most passenger flights remaining suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Emirates and Etihad said on Thursday they are expanding their cargo networks to ensure the continued supply of essential commodities. Emirates SkyCargo is currently operating flights to 51 destinations and utilizing passenger aircraft for added cargo capacity.

“Emirates SkyCargo has been expanding its network on a daily basis, and some of the latest destinations for our cargo flights on passenger aircraft include Bangkok, Casablanca, Johannesburg, Singapore, and Taipei,” said Nabil Sultan, Emirates’ divisional senior vice-president.

Last week alone, Emirates SkyCargo operated over 160 flights on its freighter jets and around 90 flights on passenger aircraft. Etihad said it is adding five routes to transport cargo using the bellyhold capacity on some of its passenger aircraft. These include services from Abu Dhabi to Melbourne, Chennai, Kerala, Karachi, and Amsterdam.

The carrier said the new routes will ensure the continuity of fresh imports to the UAE as well as imports of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. Abdulla Mohamed Shadid, managing director of cargo and logistics at Etihad Aviation Group, said the company is also working to support international requirements for essential freight, carrying goods between other nations.

Dubai airport double down on cargo
Dubai International Airport is taking steps to increase cargo operations by working with freight operators to maintain supply chains.

Last month, the volume of fruit and vegetables handled at the airport was up 88 per cent year-on-year to 18,164 tonnes, while pharmaceuticals rose 49 per cent (to 12,500 tonnes) amid an increase in global demand for such goods.

The airport said it is taking "stringent measures" to ensure the santisation of its cargo and freight facilities. Paul Griffiths, CEO, said that during this "unprecedented global crisis," there has been a move by the airport to accommodate a larger number of dedicated cargo flights to maintain the supply of food and equipment into the UAE.