Emirates Skycargo wraps up a historic 2021 with several industry-leading milestones

Published: Friday, January 14, 2022

Focusing on its signature strengths and values—agility and responsiveness, customer focus, innovation, fleet and network capabilities, Emirates SkyCargo successfully navigated the complex landscape of the global logistics and supply chain industry in 2021 against the backdrop of a lingering pandemic.

The airfreight division of Emirates notched up numerous milestones throughout the year, reinforcing its leadership position in the global airfreight industry.

“This has been without question one of the most challenging years for our industry as the pandemic continues to create difficulties across the entire supply chain and across all modes of transportation. However, Emirates SkyCargo has been a first mover in ensuring that trade lanes remain open by reinstating flights and providing additional capacity on key trade routes across six continents. We remain committed to offering the highest levels of service to our customers with safety at the center of everything we do,” said Nabil Sultan, Emirates Divisional Senior Vice President, Cargo.

January: Distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

Emirates SkyCargo has maintained an unwavering focus on supporting communities, especially those in developing markets, with rapid access to COVID-19 vaccines and other medical supplies.

To this end, in January 2021, Emirates SkyCargo partnered with leading Dubaibased entities—DP World, International Humanitarian City and Dubai Airports to form the Dubai Vaccine Logistics Alliance to expedite global vaccine distribution through Dubai.

Emirates SkyCargo also signed an MoU with UNICEF in February 2021 to prioritize delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and related supplies in support of the COVAX initiative for equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

With its expertise in transporting temperature sensitive pharmaceuticals and with its wide-body capacity and extensive global network, Emirates SkyCargo played an important role in the international movement of COVID-19 vaccines. At one point in April 2021, one in
every 20 COVID-19 vaccines administered around the world had flown on an Emirates aircraft.

By December 2021, the cargo carrier had transported a total of 600 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines on its flights to over 80 destinations, one of the largest volumes globally by any airline cargo carrier.

February: Supporting perishable exports

In February 2021, Emirates SkyCargo s howcased its support and commitment for the global food and beverage industry with a dedicated stand at Gulfood 2021, the world’s largest annual food and beverage trade exhibition in Dubai. The move also signaled confidence

Emirates SkyCargo transports close to 600 tons of food materials every day on its flights supporting communities reliant on agricultural exports for income and at the same time also ensuring food security at markets reliant on food imports.

The air cargo carrier transported over 265,000 tons of perishables and food on its flights in 2021, facilitating an important volume of the global cross-border logistics in the trade of food and other perishables.

March: One year anniversary of cargo-only flights

In March 2021, Emirates SkyCargo marked one year of utilizing Emirates Boeing 777 passenger aircraft for cargo-only operations. These cargo flights on passenger aircraft helped supplement available global cargo capacity for Emirates SkyCargo facilitating transport of PPE, food, medicines, electronics, raw materials for manufacturing and several other commodities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emirates SkyCargo had operated more than 27,800 cargo flights on passenger aircraft between March 2020 and March 2021, the most by any global air carrier.

Throughout the year, Emirates SkyCargo continued to operate cargo flights on its passenger aircraft and mini freighters (passenger aircraft with seats removed from Economy Class), supplementing much needed cargo capacity and transporting goods and commodities seamlessly from origin to destination. The air cargo carrier operated a total of more than 20,000 cargo-only flights on passenger aircraft during 2021.

April: Reinstating global network

By April 2021, Emirates SkyCargo had reinstated its global network for cargo flights to more than 135 destinations across six continents. This represented more than 85% of its pre-pandemic global network. By end of June 2021, Emirates SkyCargo was operating to more than 140 destinations, restoring 90% of its pre-COVID network.

May: Humanitarian assistance through Emirates India


In May 2021, Emirates SkyCargo announced that it was establishing a humanitarian airbridge between Dubai and India to transport urgent medical and relief items, to support the Indian community to fight the serious COVID-19 situation at that time in the country.

The air cargo carrier supported partner organizations including International Humanitarian City and WHO by flying relief materials free of charge to nine destinations in India. More than 100 tons of cargo were flown free of charge within the first three weeks of the announcement of the airbridge.

June: Strengthening cool chain infrastructure at Dubai

In June 2021, Emirates SkyCargo expanded its temperature sensitive pharma and vaccine handling capabilities at its EU GDP certified dedicated pharma facility at Dubai International Airport. The air cargo carrier added 94 cool room pallet positions to its existing infrastructure allowing for ore handling capacity for temperature sensitive pharma, including COVID-19 vaccines.

The new extension is able to hold an estimated 60-90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines at any one time. Emirates SkyCargo’s pharma infrastructure and capabilities include a three-tiered specialized product ‘Emirates Pharma’, innovative equipment such as dedicated
pharma cool dollies for maintaining unbroken cool chain on the airport ramp as well as enhanced origin to destination temperature protection with its Pharma Corridors program.

July: Flying champion horses to and from Tokyo for the Olympics

July 2021 marked the start of one of the largest air charters for the transport of champion horses ever undertaken by Emirates. The carrier flew 316 horses from Liege to Tokyo and 323 horses from Tokyo to Liege concluding more than 18 months of intense planning. 16 dedicated charter flights on Emirates Boeing 777 freighters also transported 157 horse grooms, 160 tons of equipment and 336 horse stalls over a seven-week period from mid-July.

August: Supporting exports and record-breaking operations

With capacity shortfall impacting exports of industrial and consumer supplies across the world, Emirates SkyCargo’s global teams pulled out all stops to operate additional flights to facilitate transport of time sensitive commodities.

As an illustration, Emirates SkyCargo’s team in Hanoi, Vietnam, transported more than 4500 tons of export cargo from Hanoi on a record breaking 97 cargo flights, handling anywhere between 6-7 flights in a single day, flying a variety of commodities from PPE to electronics and
from perishable commodities such as fruit and vegetables to clothing and high fashion.

September: Upgrading customer experience

In order to enhance the user experience and efficiency of its cargo booking process, Emirates SkyCargo partnered with WiseTech Global, a leading provider of software solutions to the logistics industry to provide direct access to its flights and inventory for cargo customers,
allowing them to make bookings directly without any other touchpoints. This is part of Emirates SkyCargo’s broader initiatives to provide a richer and more optimized user experience for external and internal customers along with additional digital functionalities.

October: E-commerce

Emirates Delivers, the e-commerce delivery platform developed by Emirates SkyCargo celebrated its second anniversary. The product is aimed at individual and small business customers in the UAE who shop online regularly from the US.

E-commerce was also the focus area of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that Emirates SkyCargo signed with Emirates Post in November at the Dubai Airshow. Under the agreement, the two entities will work together to create an end-to-end global logistics platform with its hub in Dubai.

November: Focus on freighters

Emirates SkyCargo outlined its roadmap for 2022-2024 for its freighter fleet at the Dubai Airshow. The air cargo carrier announced that it had invested US$ 1 billion for acquiring two new freighter aircraft from Boeing as well as for the conversion of four Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft into freighters by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

December: Supporting small businesses

Through its international network, Emirates SkyCargo enables many small businesses across continents to reach a larger global audience. One of the companies that Emirates SkyCargo has been helping is a UAE start-up that has been growing premium oysters in the waters of Dibba Bay. The air cargo carrier facilitates the rapid transportation of this premium produce from the UAE to connoisseurs in markets such as Russia oftentimes within the same day.