Emirates weighs up the options for its future cargo fleet requirements  

Emirates SkyCargo Airbus Boeing

Dubai-based Emirates and its dedicated airfreight division Emirates SkyCargo are in the process of weighing up new aircraft for its future fleet development. Both the Airbus A350F and Boeing’s 777-8F are said to be the leading contenders as the operator evaluates both against its criteria of requirements in the coming years.    

The company is said to be prioritizing a decision between these two yet-to-fly options to operate alongside the company’s fleet of current-generation Boeing 777-300Fs plus several of the carrier’s existing passenger 777-300ERs that are to be converted into cargo configuration.  

The company has said that it foresees a need for a long-haul, heavy-duty freighter capable of carrying 110 to 120 tons. Scaling up Emirates’ main-deck capacity on a fleet of dedicated freighter aircraft will also help it feed the bellies of the passenger widebodies the group has on order, according to Emirates’ Senior Vice President of Freighters and Cargo Planning Nadeem Sultan speaking at the IATA World Cargo Symposium held in Hong Kong earlier in March 2024.  

In the meantime, Emirates still expects to take delivery of five new 777Fs that it ordered directly from Boeing in 2022 and later in 2024. This is despite the delivery of these new aircraft slipping due to delays to its GE90 engines due to supply chain issues.  

The incoming Boeing 777Fs are expected to replace older units that Emirates has on lease from DAE Capital. The airline was operating 13 777Fs up until the pandemic but returned four following a downturn in demand during the crisis. That said, the company then added two new leased units in 2022. The current fleet of leased freighters ranges from 2012 to 2015 vintage.  

Kevin Hackert / Shutterstock

Adding to the company’s fleet growth strategy, Emirates is also due to send its first 777-300ER to the Etihad Engineering facility for conversion with IAI (Israel Aircraft Industries) later in 2024 as part of a deal for the conversion of ten of its passenger 777-300ERs to dedicated freighter configuration. This work includes the addition of a main cargo deck door and the strengthening of the cabin floor, amongst other items.       

The 10 aircraft earmarked for conversion are still flying in passenger service with the carrier. However, the first will be released for conversion as soon as IAI receives its formal certification for the work to commence. Emirates has not ruled out sending further 777-300s for conversion in the future, added Sultan.     

Meanwhile, while Emirates decides its next move in terms of its future freighter requirements, its nearest neighbors have already made their choices in terms of next-generation widebody freighters. Abu-Dhabi-based Etihad Airways ordered seven A350Fs in 2022, while Doha-based Qatar Airways is the launch customer for the Boeing 777-8F with a firm order for 34 aircraft.  

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