Med./Middle East/African Trade - Carriers step up cargo commitments in Middle East and Africa

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Air Cargo News  

By Karen E. Thuermer, AJOT
Despite the financial woes facing some US and European airlines, the latest IATA figures indicate that passenger and air cargo volumes in all regions are overall doing well. The Middle East, in particular, is taking the industry by storm, holding the lead position followed by Asia-Pacific carriers.
From January to June 2004, IATA reported the Middle East region grew by 37.4% for cargo and 44.3% for passenger traffic.
Carriers across the region are expanding their destinations, purchasing additional aircraft, increasing frequency of service, and adding services.
Hailing from the United Arab Emirates, Emirates Airlines recently placed orders for four Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The aircraft will be added to their fleet in 2006. Emirates currently operates 21 Boeing 777-300s and 777-200s. Next year, the carrier will take delivery of 26 more 777-300ER aircraft Emirates is acquiring from leasing companies. By late 2007, the carrier will have 51 Boeing 777 aircraft.
Emirates also operates Airbus aircraft in its fleet. The carrier has 29 A330-200s, eight A340-300s, five A340-500s and one A310.
In addition to expanding its fleet, Emirates SkyCargo commenced new dedicated cargo freight services between Dubai and Johannesburg, South Africa on October 1st, utilizing Boeing 747-400F aircraft. The service indicates Emirates’ use of maindeck to Africa for the first time. The carrier will also supplement belly capacity on its twice-daily A340-300 service. Together, the added services will take overall capacity on the route to more than 300 tons per week.
Africa is the current focus for the carrier. Both carriers see opportunities to fill southbound freighters with industrial and consumer goods such as spare parts, electronic equipment and general industrial goods and fly perishables northbound. Emirates’ northbound service freighter will call at Nairobi to pick up fresh flowers, vegetables and fish for European markets.
Cargolux is also focusing on Africa by launching weekly B747-400 freighter service to Johannesburg and Lusaka, Zambia, returning to Luxembourg via Nairobi and Maastricht. Lagos, Nigeria and Eldoret, Kenya have been introduced to its service as well.
Also hailing from the UAE, Etihad Airways is showing impressive gains in the cargo business. To make its cargo offering transparent, the carrier has just introduced Etihad Crystal Cargo, a product that aims to provide total transparency to the shipping community. While Etihad operates as a passenger airline, two-thirds of its bellyhold hauls cargo.
For an airline that is only 15 months old, Etihad is rapidly increasing its numbers of passengers and volumes of cargo thanks, in part, to its fast expansion into international markets. In September, Etihad added service to Mumbai and Delhi, India to its flights to Amman, Bahrain, Bangkok, Beirut, Colombo, Damascus, London (Heathrow and Gatwick), Munich, and Geneva. Soon Karachi will also be served. Services to London with connections to North America will be increased to 15 flights a week during the Winter.
“Currently, the mainstay of our aircraft are four Airbus 330-200s, complimented by an Airbus A340-300 and one Boeing 767,” reveals Mohamed Sherief, Etihad cargo sales coordinator.
Realizing a phenomenal growth of 11,000% since its start-up, Etihad has already agreed to 24 widebody aircraft from Airbus with a further option for 12 additional aircraft. The order, which totals in excess of $7 billion, is believed by market observers to be the largest initial order ever placed by a start-up airline. The aircraft are scheduled to be delivered in 2006-2007.
Sherief attributes Etihad’s incredible growth to its home location of Abu Dhabi and the fact that the UAE is geographically positioned at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe.
“With our current five aircraft, we are already moving 2,300 tons of freight a month,” Sherief says.
Saudi Arabian Airlines Cargo commenced 747 service to Houston in April. Most of the volume is oil-re

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