By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOT
Dubai has been in the world news lately, bringing enormous attention to its debt crisis. But none of this news relates or has an impact on Emirates SkyCargo.
“All and all we have been doing very well, although we have not been spared by the global recession,” commented Robert Siegel, Emirates SkyCargo’s regional manager for Cargo Commercial Operations – Europe & Americas, in a telephone interview with AJOT from his office in Dubai.
Although Siegel did not have hard data at hand, he did mention that in the past 12 months the carrier has done well in North American markets. As for business overall, he said volumes compared to last year “are on par.”
“We are very satisfied with our business in North America,” he stated. “Business there has been strong.”
Among other markets that have generally done better in the past, but are currently not faring as well are the Middle East and Asia. “The Far East to United States has been struggling a bit,” he added. “But in the last six weeks, volumes have picked up.”
While Siegel is not 100 percent certain if the increase is based on Christmas demand or is going to be a demand driven increase, he is optimistic that next year will show improvements. “This is something we expect to see in the first half of January,” he said. “We are cautiously optimistic.”
Meanwhile, Siegel regards a driving factor for making U.S. markets a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy air cargo environment has much to do with the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar.
“This makes American exports lucrative,” he said.
Other pluses are U.S. ties with the Middle East, particularly oil-centric Houston.
“Oil and gas equipment out of Houston has always had strong volumes,” he stated.
Then there are the volumes of nearly recession-proof goods such as perishables coming out of California. “Our Los Angeles flights have high load volumes of perishables – fruits and vegetables. That region’s excellent produce is in high demand in Dubai,” he remarked.
Textiles and apparel, especially those coming from the subcontinent markets of Bangladesh and India, tend to make up a large share of the goods flying to the United States.
“Right now we are seeing volumes of winter clothing,” he stated.
Most of the clothing is transshipped through Dubai, which is “hub central” for Emirates network.
Currently, Emirates offers daily direct flights from Dubai to Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), and San Francisco (SFO), and double daily flights to New York’s JFK. The daily service to LAX and SFO went into effect last May.
The JFK service uses Boeing B777-300 ER aircraft; Houston, B777-200LRs. For LAX and SFO, Emirates just changed its aircraft from B777-200LRs to B777-300ERs. The reason, Siegel cited, was huge passenger demand.
In March, the carrier replaced its two Airbus A380 superjumbo jets that were operating on the daily route between New York’s JFK airport and Dubai with a Boeing B777-300ER.
“These are successful routes,” he said.
In addition, Emirates Sky Cargo flies two freighters to Toledo, Ohio.
According to Siegel, the flights out of the United States are stretched to full capacity. And with the popularity of its passenger flights, cargo capacity can sometimes be limited.
“It’s a long flight between Houston and Dubai – 14, so the aircraft uses a lot of fuel,” he said. Plus, with much of the cargo being flown out of Houston being heavy oil and gas equipment (hence, why it operates the fuel-efficient B777-200LR on the route), cargo capacity can be limited.
Yet, given that passenger service on these flights is generally sold out, this route is highly profitable.
On Emirates two daily flights out of JFK, Siegel added, Emirates generally carries a mix of mail, courier mail, and general cargo. “Again, these passenger flights are usually full,