Emirates SkyCargo plans to add two more 747-400Fs on ACMI

With 2 more 747-400Fs in its fleet by August this year, Emirates SkyCargo will have a freighter fleet of 5 747Fs and 11 B777Fs

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With air cargo demand continuing to grow strong and with delays in the delivery of new freighter aircraft, cargo airlines are looking to lease freighters to offer long-term capacity to their customers. Emirates SkyCargo plans to add two more Boeing 747-400Fs to its fleet on ACMI basis as early as next month.

More B747-400Fs on ACMI
“I think managing the freighter fleet and our main deck capacity have been challenging, primarily because of the well-documented delays in the delivery of new freighter aircraft. We're seeing a delay of 4 to 6 months on our freighter orders that we have with Boeing. So to mitigate the impact of those delays on our growth plans as well as on our commitments, we are already flying three leased B747-400Fs on ACMI. We are now planning to add two more B747-400Fs to take our ACMI freighter fleet to five,” said Nadeem Sultan, Senior Vice President, Freighters & Cargo Planning for Emirates.

Sultan said that the freighters could be in the fleet “as early as August”. Emirates also operates a fleet of 11 B777 freighters.

“Sultan argued that the decision to add more freighters on an ACMI basis is not for the peak season, but for ‘securing long-term main deck capacity’.

“The timing may seem like it’s for the peak; but in essence these are for long-term commitments that we are entering into for multiple years. Cargo volumes are continuing to grow and yes it's always with ups and downs. But, realistically, today, if you wanted a brand new freighter, you would be looking at a wait of 4 to 5 years. So to protect ourselves and our customers with main deck capacity we have made the decision that we're going to secure some of that capacity requirement through ACMI long term arrangements to make sure that we are not at the mercy of, I would say, market but more so even the manufacturers,” said Sultan.

Orders for new production freighters
Sultan also spoke about the delays in the two new production freighter programmes from both Airbus (A350F) and Boeing (B777-8F). “These are new freighters and they look promising. I would expect with any new aircraft type entering the industry, there might be some teething issues; there could be some delays. So to make sure that we protect the capacity we need, we're going down this route,” he added.

Emirates has not placed an order for the new-generation wide-body production freighters from either Boeing or Airbus. However, Sultan confirmed that the carrier is evaluating both of them and a decision on the order is expected before the end of this year. “We will have firm decision and hopefully an order put in place to secure main deck greater capacity for 2028 and beyond.”

Delivery of five new B777Fs
In November 2022 Emirates had announced a firm order for five new B777Fs. According to Sultan, the delivery of those aircraft are delayed but he confirmed that there is now some clarity in terms of the expected timelines. “So the first of those five remaining aircrafts is being delivered last week of July. We have a firm date for that. And then the remaining three aircraft are going to be delivered in September, October and November. And then the last one, we're looking at February (2025).”

B777-300ER converted freighters
Emirates had also announced in 2023 that it would have 10 of its B777-300ER passenger aircraft converted to freighters under the Israel Aerospace Industries’ (IAI) “The Big Twin” conversion programme. The conversion programme is delayed and the first aircraft in Kalitta Air (first customer of the B777-300ERSF) livery is still waiting for the supplemental type certificate (STC).

“One of the reasons for leasing B747-400Fs is the delay in getting these converted freighters. We had a fleet plan. And unfortunately, these delays are bringing up challenges. We are still very much committed to the programme and we are getting regular updates from IAI on the progress. We are still very confident that the end product will be delivered realistically. We are expecting the first aircraft would come into the fleet early or first half of next year,” said Sultan.

Sultan said that Emirates will have its B777-300ERs converted at Etihad Engineering’s site at Abu Dhabi International Airport. In 2023 IAI signed an agreement with Etihad Engineering to establish a passenger-to-freighter conversion site for B777-3000ER aircraft in Abu Dhabi. This becomes the first conversion center IAI opens outside Israel for Boeing 777s.

Last week Badr Abbas was appointed as the Divisional Senior Vice President for Emirates SkyCargo effective July 8. Emirates has been without a cargo head since March this year when Emirates promoted the then Divisional Senior Vice President Nabil Sultan to the role of Executive Vice President, Passenger Sales and Country Management, Emirates.

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