Emirates, the world's biggest long-haul carrier, ordered two new Boeing 777 freighters at the Dubai Airshow and plans to convert four of its Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft into freighters in a $1 billion (Dh3.6bn) investment amid a surge in air cargo demand globally.
The two new Boeing 777-Fs will join the fleet next year, while the aircraft conversions will take place between 2023 and 2024 as the airline seeks to expand its freighter capacity, Emirates said on Monday.
"This underscores our commitment to supporting our customers’ requirements, and reflects our confidence in our future growth and status as one of the largest airline cargo carriers in the world," said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, chairman and chief executive of Emirates airline and group.
Emirates SkyCargo signed a purchase agreement with Boeing for two new Boeing 777-F aircraft, which will be delivered in April and June 2022 respectively.
The cargo arm also signed an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the conversion of four Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft into full freighters. This also includes an option for further Boeing 777-300ER conversions at a later stage.
The conversion programme for the four aircraft will start in early 2023 and is expected to be completed in 2024 with each aircraft taking up to an estimated five months for the process, the statement said.
"The last two years have put the spotlight on the importance of supply chain connectivity and the availability of air cargo capacity to global communities and economies," Sheikh Ahmed said.
"Emirates plays a key role in making essential goods available to customers and consumers globally through the capacity available on our wide-body fleet, the reach of our global network, and the advanced infrastructure at our Dubai hub."
Emirates SkyCargo, the airfreight division of Emirates, currently has a fleet of 16 mini-freighters. In addition to its freighter aircraft, Emirates offers cargo capacity in the bellyhold of its passenger aircraft.
Emirates SkyCargo operated cargo-only flights on its passenger aircraft (passenger freighters) and modified Boeing 777-300ER aircraft during the Covid-19 pandemic to meet surging demand for vital goods such as PPE, medical supplies and food as global cargo capacity fell due to reduced passenger flight operations.
Emirates SkyCargo operated more than 27,800 flights on its passenger freighters and mini-freighters in the one year period from March 2020, transporting more than 100,000 tonnes of essential cargo including medical supplies and food on these flights.
Emirates SkyCargo transports cargo to over 140 destinations across a global network spanning six continents.