Developing Dubai’s vision for the future

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Having rebounded strongly after the Covid pandemic, Emirates SkyCargo is looking to continue its growth, as they look to support Dubai and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in becoming the centre of global trade. 

Back to operating their entire fleet of wide-body aircraft, Emirates SkyCargo has substantial cargo capacity across its network of almost 150 destinations. Connecting six continents through daily flights on the Boeing 777 or A380, Emirates flies into most of the main and secondary cities in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. These routes are bolstered by connectivity into key location across Europe and Asia. 

“As an airline, we’ve always had the philosophy of having an aircraft that can accommodate both passenger and cargo. That’s been there from day one,” Nabil Sultan, Divisional Senior Vice President of Emirates SkyCargo, said.  

“That’s what makes us unique. If you look at some operators, you’ll probably see 50-60% of their fleet consist of small body aircraft where there’s hardly any cargo space. With us, it’s the opposite,” Sultan added. “With the 777 and A380, you are moving huge capacity, not just into big cities, but smaller cities, which gets us that extra reach.” 

Quick connections 

With its location in the UAE, Emirates finds itself only a short flight time from 2.5 billion people, positioning itself in a perfect position to swiftly serve a wide range of global destinations. However, for Emirates, it’s not just about where they are based but the overall vision of the UAE to become the world’s biggest trade hub. 

“I know that a lot of countries claim they are at the centre of the world but it’s not just about being in the centre. It’s about ensuring that you have a network that actually works,” Sultan explained. “You need to have a country that is able to eliminate bureaucracy and get things going. Dubai has always been a pillar in terms of creating a conducive environment for businesses.” 

This has been reflected in the increase of distribution centres and manufacturers who have made their home in Dubai, with Emirates working to ensure they have the connectivity to deliver their products to the market.  

“Unless we’re able to sort the necessary capacity to these companies, it will be difficult for them to sustain their business,” Sultan highlighted. “Dubai and Emirates will grow hand in hand. As the UAE grows its portfolio and different business opportunities emerge, we have to step up and ensure we can support different industries and cater for their movements.” 

Technological roadmap 

With innovation spreading throughout the industry, Emirates has worked to embrace digitalisation where possible. “We’ve already started looking at various aspects of our business to see how we can digitalise to ensure minimum human intervention in the whole end-to-end process,” Sultan said. 

Emirates works to make sure that customers have the whole process available on their mobile 24/7 without having to go through a massive amount of documentation and approval that has previously been used. 

“Things are progressing very fast towards digitalisation now. A lot of countries are realising that you’re losing opportunity for huge economy growth with these bureaucratic barriers,” Sultan outlined. “Countries can no longer afford that today, so we’re seeing a lot of receptiveness from different companies and countries who now see value in digitalisation.” 

The benefits of innovation are particularly beneficial for time-sensitive shipments, as Emirates SkyCargo has discovered. Arriving in Dubai, due to the digital processes in place, Emirates has electronically cleared goods through customers before the aircraft event lands, so they can get straight into the delivery process after arrival.  

This will help support Emirates SkyCargo in its mission to bring same-day delivery to the industry. For example, goods are ordered in the UK, packaged swiftly, put on a plane and delivered to the customer’s home that evening thanks to the quick clearance process.  

Serious about sustainability 

Emirates SkyCargo has been realistic in outlining its green goals, working on a number of initiatives, both at their hubs and with their aircraft.  

Having embraced both Airbus and Boeing in its fleet, Emirates has consistently shown interest in finding the best aircraft for its activities, rather than siding with one manufacturer or the other. Recently, Emirates signed an order for an additional 15 A350s, taking its total order to 65 aircraft, as they look to bolster their fleet mix and serve a new range of markets, including long-haul destinations. 

“The A350 is a great, fuel efficient aircraft. And so is the Boeing 777,” Sultan stated. “As an airline, we have probably one of the youngest fleets of any airline. 

Facilities have been electrified where possible, to ensure a healthy, environmentally friendly set up. Hubs are also using solar panels to generate the energy needed to operate activities. 

Sultan is open that there is a lot of work ahead to reach net zero goals but Emirates and the government of the UAE are aligned in making sustainability a top priority for the region. 

“We’ve been very conservative in terms of making any big announcement, as we understand the situation and don’t want to greenwash the whole sustainability issue,” Sultan said. “Everyone will have to play a part.” 

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Author: Edward Hardy