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An Emirates A380 at San Francisco International Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Parker Davis)

Emirates SkyCargo Adds A380 Cargo Charter Operations

Earlier this week, Emirates SkyCargo announced that it has started utilizing the Airbus A380 for select cargo charter operations.

According to the carrier, the dedicated cargo operations using the A380 comes in response to increased demand for air cargo capacity to transport critical goods, such as medical supplies needed as a result of the COVID-19 global health pandemic. The first dedicated cargo flight operated by Emirates SkyCargo with the A380 transported medical supplies between Seoul and Amsterdam via Dubai.

The announcement by Emirates SkyCargo is the latest example of a passenger airliner being enlisted for cargo duty in light of the pandemic.

Other carriers have enlisted the use of their passenger jets for cargo-only service as well in response to the pandemic. For example, American Airlines, after over 30 years without operating cargo-only service, began to use its passenger jets to fly cargo in March when it operated a Boeing 777-300 from Dallas Fort Worth International to Frankfurt. United Airlines also has been utilizing wide-body passenger jets for cargo service, using its Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft for cargo operations.

Emirates SkyCargo’s announcement of utilizing the Airbus A380 for cargo operations represents a unique milestone in the use of passenger airliners for cargo operations as the A380 the world’s largest passenger airliner. However, the aircraft was never embraced by the industry as Airbus had once envisioned. In February of 2019, Airbus announced the end of A380 production after a mere 12 years.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated increase in demand for air cargo capacity, it is no surprise that Emirates is using the A380 for cargo operations. Emirates is the largest operator of the A380 with 115 of the aircraft in its fleet and eight pending delivery.

According to the carrier, by working with its engineering and flight operations, it has optimized the cargo capacity of the A380 to carry 50 tonnes (110,231 pounds) in its belly cargo hold. The carrier is also working on further optimizing the A380’s cargo capacity through seat loading of cargo. Using passenger seats to carry cargo has also been used by other carriers utilizing their passenger planes for cargo use.

With its short production run and what turned out to be lukewarm interest in the aircraft, one has to wonder if the use of the A380 for cargo operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to renewed interest in the superjumbo jet for use as a freighter. Only time will tell. For now, Emirates SkyCargo says it has planned more dedicated cargo flights for the A380 throughout November 2020.

Jordan Green
Jordan Green
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