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Emirates SkyCargo Transports Over 1 Billion COVID-19 Vaccines

An Emirates Boeing 777F departing Los Angeles. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

News of Covid-19 vaccines available for distribution around the world buoyed industry practitioners both above and below deck with cargo carriers with climate-controlled facilities suddenly having a business opportunity in the worldwide distribution of billions of doses of vaccines.

Among the carriers that benefited immensely from the supply chain of Covid-19 vaccines is Emirates SkyCargo — Emirates airline cargo and airfreight division — which announced it transported more than one billion Covid-19 vaccines doses worldwide, in the 18 months after its first trial shipment of doses in October 2020.

More than 4,200 metric tons of Covid-19 vaccines — equivalent to over 1 billion doses — were moved to over 80 destinations on over 2,000 Emirates flights and close to two-thirds of the 1 billion doses were transported to developing countries, the UAE-based carrier announced earlier this week.

Nabil Sultan, Emirates divisional Senior Vice President, cargo, said, “From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Emirates SkyCargo has been focused on supporting global communities in their recovery from the devastating effects of the virus and we have prioritized assistance to developing countries. The strategic location of our Dubai hub combined with the strengths of our modern fleet of widebody aircraft, our purpose-built facilities, and capabilities in moving temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals allowed us to transport COVID-19 vaccines securely, reliably and rapidly from one corner of the globe to another. Ahead of World Health Day, we’re incredibly proud of our global Emirates SkyCargo team who have pulled out all stops during the pandemic to keep supply chains for essential goods like vaccines up and running. ”

Transportation of Humanitarian Supplies

In addition to Covid-19 vaccines, the airline transported other critical medicines and treatments on its flights across its route network.

This is in addition to the carrier being one of the first global air cargo carriers — as early as August 2020 — to begin mapping the global logistics for the movement of potential Covid-19 vaccines.

In October 2020, Emirates announced it would be setting aside a dedicated GDP-certified airside hub for the transport of Covid-19 vaccines, working with its logistics partners, the cargo division of Emirates, which transported trial shipments of Covid-19 vaccines through Dubai.

“In January 2021, Emirates SkyCargo teamed up with leading Dubai-based companies to form the Dubai Vaccine Logistics Alliance to speed up distribution of vaccines through Dubai to developing countries,” the airline said in a statement. “In February 2021, the carrier signed an MoU with UNICEF to prioritize the transport and delivery of Covid-19 vaccines in support of the COVAX initiative. By early April 2021, Emirates SkyCargo had already transported more than 50 million doses of vaccines.”

The SkyCargo expanded its pharma cool chain infrastructure at Dubai International Airport in June 2021, allowing it to store an estimated 60-90 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines at any point in time.

The global scaling up of vaccine distribution enabled the Emirates’ cargo division to facilitate the transportation of larger volumes of vaccines from manufacturing origins to destinations, reaching 250 million doses by September 2021 and 600 million doses by December 2021.

Boosting Cargo Shipment

While it is easy to see why fortunes for transporting cargo could be viewed favorably by observers searching for a silver lining, from an economic standpoint, it is safe to say airports and airlines with cargo-diversified revenue streams have largely managed to avoid the worst of the pandemic’s ravages.

Last month, Emirates SkyCargo announced that it will be reactivating its cargo hub at Emirates SkyCentral DWC — Dubai World Central Airport — for dedicated freighter aircraft operations beginning March 26.

The move marks the return to dual-hub cargo operations in Dubai for the air cargo carrier after a period of nearly two years. The DWC facility has been utilized as a vaccine hub during the pandemic.

Victor Shalton


  • Victor Shalton

    Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Victor’s love for aviation goes way back to when he was 11-years-old. Living close to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, he developed a love for planes and he even recalls aspiring to be a future airline executive for Kenya Airways. He also has a passion in the arts and loves writing and had his own aviation blog prior to joining AirlineGeeks. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration at DeKUT and aspiring to make a career in a more aviation-related course.

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