By Michael Hearing
In 2020-21, the Emirates Group posted a loss of $6 billion, compared with last year’s $456 million profit.
The Group’s revenue was $9.7 billion, a decline of 66% over last year’s results. The Group’s cash balance was US $5.4 billion, down 23% from last year due to weak demand caused by international pandemic related business and travel restrictions that swept across the Group’s core business divisions and markets.
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a tremendous toll on human lives, communities, economies, and on the aviation and travel industry. Emirates and dnata were hit hard by the drop in demand for international air travel as countries closed their borders and imposed stringent travel restrictions.” He continued, “Our top priorities throughout the year were: the health and wellbeing of our people and customers, preserving cash and controlling costs, and restoring our operations safely and sustainably. Emirates received a capital injection of US $3.1 billion from the Government of Dubai, and dnata tapped on various industry support programs and availed a total relief of nearly US $218 million in 2020-21. These helped us sustain operations and retain the vast majority of our talent pool. Unfortunately, we still had to make the difficult decision to resize our workforce in line with reduced operational requirements.”
For the first time in the Group’s history, redundancies were implemented across all parts of the business. As a result, the Group’s total workforce was reduced by 31% to 75,145 employees, representing over 160 different nationalities.
Since early 2020, the world has experienced a tough year for passenger flights and cargo belly capacity. The past several months has been, in large part, a learning experience for carriers, their logistics partners, and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Freighter airfreight demand for PPE and other pandemic driven medical supplies increased exponentially. The airlines with dedicated cargo branches scaled operations to meet the demand. Emirates SkyCargo was among the airlines scrambling to reconfigure aircraft in order to carry more cargo.
Emirates SkyCargo applied lessons learned from vaccine transportation to make its processes faster and more efficient. The upshot is that it will enhance the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine transportation while improving the transport of other temperature-sensitive pharma products.
When approval of the COVID-19 vaccine was imminent, the carrier began preparations for distribution, creating an air-side hub for vaccines at Dubai South. In addition to the dedicated facilities at Dubai International, the facility offered over 3 acres of cold-chain compliant storage and handling space. On December 22, Emirates SkyCargo transported the first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Requiring storage at -70 degrees Celsius, the vaccine was flown from Brussels to Dubai free of charge.
Dubai’s two airports, Dubai International (DXB) and Al Maktoum International (DWC) located 23 miles southwest of Dubai, make a compelling case for cargo airlines, freight agents and associated businesses. Emirates SkyCargo, the airports largest tenant, is doing its part to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to people. The carrier has taken steps to expand its capabilities for handling temperature-sensitive pharma and vaccines. Emirates SkyCargo is known for providing cargo solutions utilizing cutting-edge airfreight services. For example, Emirates SkyCargo utilizes priority products worldwide delivery, extensive trucking and offline partner networks, and one of the youngest fleets, including the latest wide-body Airbus and Boeing jets.
Vaccine distribution plans include extending the fully automated cool room to accommodate 94 airline pallet positions at its dedicated and EU GDP-certified pharma facility at Dubai International Airport. This cool-room extension provides an additional 28,000 square feet of temperature-controlled space. The end result is increased storage capacity and enhanced handling capabilities for vaccines and other pharma at Emirates SkyCargo’s purpose-built facility.
Emirates SkyCargo has stepped up to help curb the pandemic. To date, Emirates SkyCargo transported 75 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. With this facility expansion, the carrier plans to transport 100 million by the end of June 2021. Air cargo doesn’t happen without facility ground partners. Much of the carrier’s success can be attributed to the Cargo Mega Terminal, which has a built-in infrastructure of efficient terminals coupled with a trained, dedicated team to help meet the burgeoning demand for transportation of COVID vaccines.
To date, Emirates SkyCargo transported more than 75 million doses of the vaccine on 250 flights to over 60 destinations, more than 350 tons of COVID19. Looking ahead, Emirates SkyCargo is preparing for the possibility of an increase in vaccine-transport demands to developing nations. As vaccine manufacturing ramps up, the increase in volumes of the vaccine transported will increase. Emirates Sky Cargo set a milestone of 100 million vaccine doses to be transported before the end of June.
Emirates Pandemic Performance
Emirates SkyCargo responded to local market demand, by contributing 60% of the airline’s total transport revenue. The airline scaled operations and rebuilt its network to meet shippers’ demand who faced capacity issues when the pandemic forced reduce flights. The airline brought 19 “mini freighters” modified Boeing 777-300ER passenger aircraft into service. The cargo division also introduced new safety loading protocols when using overhead bins and passenger seats to carry cargo.
In addition to supporting global supply chains for food, medical and other trade items, Emirates SkyCargo also tapped on its pharma capabilities and infrastructure to support the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and humanitarian relief to Lebanon in the aftermath of the Port of Beirut explosions. The airline partnered with UNICEF to facilitate the rapid transport of COVID-19 vaccines to developing nations through Dubai.