LONDON – On July 5, it has been announced by the United Arab Emirates’ flag carrier airline’s cargo subsidiary, Etihad Cargo, that they will be strengthening their Chinese freight services.
Etihad Cargo’s Chinese Strengthening
Despite the Covid pandemic heavily hitting the passenger and corporate sectors of the aviation industry, cargo demand had increased tenfold.
However, in the early stages, many carriers found it challenging to keep up with the rapid growth in cargo demand for the transportation of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and then eventually vaccines among other vital items.
However, as part of finding their feet, many carriers adopted the use of converting some of their passenger aircraft that were essentially sat around because of the restrictions on internal travel in place.
This is where they stripped out the passenger seats in cabins and used both the belly and cabin areas as places to help carry additional much needed freight. These aircraft conversions were called ‘preighters’, in other words passenger freighters.
As we come to the tail end of the pandemic and both the passenger and corporate air travel sectors being to return to pre-Covid (2019) levels and in some cases, more, preighters were no longer needed and as such carriers began to re-focus on dedicated freighter aircraft.
In this case, Etihad Cargo will be, from July onwards, focusing exclusively on expanding its operations on both direct passenger flights, where belly cargo can still be utilised and more importantly dedicated Boeing 777 freighter services.
At present Etihad Cargo operates a total of five Boeing 777 freighter aircraft across nearly 30 dedicated freighter routes across the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa and the United States.
As part of this announcement, Etihad Cargo will offer 15 direct passenger and dedicated freighter flights to China each week, resulting in a total weekly cargo capacity of 2,708 tonnes.
This capacity includes belly cargo space on their passenger services, of which recently, their route between Abu Dhabi and Beijing has restarted as Covid restrictions in China begin to ease, as well as their dedicated Boeing 777 freighter services to Shanghai daily and Hong Kong six times per week.
Etihad Aviation Group’s Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Cargo, Martin Drew, has commented in their latest announcement saying:
“As the Chinese market starts to recover from COVID challenges and zero-COVID restrictions are lifted, Etihad is pleased to resume its passenger operations to Beijing and reaffirm our commitment to Etihad Cargo customers with the introduction of capacity on key trade lanes.”
“These flights will connect China to the Middle East, Europe and the rest of the world via Etihad Cargo’s hub in Abu Dhabi. China is a critical strategic market for Etihad Cargo, and the direct flights between the two capital cities and other major destinations will further strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership between the United Arab Emirates and China.”
It is evident from this announcement that the carrier is beginning to ramp up its Etihad Cargo operations which could eventually lead to the opening of more routes where the dedicated Boeing 777 freighters will operate, as well as even the addition of more dedicated freighters into their fleet.
It will be interesting to see in the months and years ahead how this all pans out for Etihad Cargo and where we will see them expanding too next.