After almost two years away, the Dubai-based carrier and its SkyCargo subsidiary have announced a return to its Dubai World Central cargo hub at the end of the month. This move will provide much-needed additional cargo handling capacity for the airline as it ramps up its operations following COVID-19.

Emirates SkyCentral is on its way back

In yet another clear sign that the global post-pandemic recovery is gathering pace. Emirates SkyCargo will recommence cargo operations at its Emirates SkyCentral cargo hub located at Dubai World Central Airport (DWC) to the south of the city on March 26th.

This facility will primarily be for its 5-strong fleet of dedicated freighter aircraft. Emirates SkyCargo is the dedicated air freight division of the Dubai-based carrier, transporting cargo to 140 global destinations using the cargo capacity of Emirates' passenger fleet in addition to its dedicated fleet of Boeing 777 freighters.

The Emirates SkyCargo fleet will once again be seen at DWC SkyCentral. Photo: Emirates SkyCargo

The re-opening of Emirates SkyCentral comes following the COVID-19 pandemic when Emirates consolidated its freighter (main deck) and its passenger-cargo (belly-hold) operations at Dubai International Airport (DXB) following the considerable reduction in passenger services in the early stages of the pandemic.

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This consolidation allowed for operations to be streamlined at just a single site, ensuring limited staffing could provide continuous handling operations and ensure that vital supplies of medical equipment, vaccines, and other essentials could continue to be transported worldwide.

Passenger flights bring more cargo

As Emirates claws its operations back as passenger demand returns, there will be a resulting increase in belly-hold cargo as more of the passenger fleet returns to the skies. Similarly, although cargo volumes were less affected by the pandemic, they are also rebounding.

The scaling up of the Emirates SkyCentral operation will provide the SkyCargo division's capacity to allow for continuous and reliable cargo handling capability across the two sites.

Emirates SkyCargo relies heavily on belly-hold cargo, including fresh produce. Photo: Emirates SkyCargo 

Connectivity is the key

The company will connect the two hubs by regular trucking operations, running between each site continuously 24 hours each day. This dedicated fleet of vehicles operating around the clock will provide seamless connectivity for cargo between the two airports.

For those items of cargo given high priority, Emirates SkyCargo boasts the ability to connect the two hubs in under five hours. That time is from the touchdown of the aircraft delivering the goods at one hub to the take-off of the departing aircraft at the other.

The company will provide 24/7 dedicated trucking between its two cargo hubs. Photo: Emirates SkyCargo

The two sites will have their own clearly defined area of operations. With DXB handling belly-hold cargo arriving or departing on Emirates' passenger operations and DWC being dedicated to handling the Emirates SkyCargo dedicated freighter fleet. According to, the Emirates SkyCargo fleet currently consists of five Boeing 777-300ER freighters.

A state-of-the-art facility

The Emirates SkyCentral DWC was inaugurated in 2015 and can handle over one million tonnes of cargo per year. Together with the operation at DXB, Emirates SkyCargo can handle over 2.5 million tonnes of cargo per annum across both sites.

This equates to over 8,000 individual shipments per day. The two facilities combined cover over 185,000 m2 making it one of the world's largest air logistics hubs. It is unique in that it can operate different zones within the state-of-the-art facility. Cool zones dedicated to handling fresh produce such as fruit, vegetables, and flowers are extensive, as is another zone specializing in handling pharmaceuticals and medical equipment.

The specialist SkyPharma facility forms part of the wider Emirates DWC SkyCentral complex. Photo: Emirates SkyCargo

Given that the Emirates SkyCargo aircraft can park on the apron right outside the SkyCentral facilitates the expeditious loading and unloading of such goods, ensuring that the integrity of such products is not diminished through the handling process.

The Emirates SkyCentral facilities at DXB and DWC offer integrated screening and customs clearance and on-site police and municipality inspection. These measures ensure that every shipment it transports never leaves the facility and remains within the oversight of Emirates SkyCargo at all times.

High hopes for post-pandemic recovery

As the air industry ramps up following the pandemic, the numbers of passengers carried and cargo transported are generally expected to be well up over the last couple of years. Emirates is hoping to cash in on the rebound in demand for air travel and has been active in announcing a stream of services returning to its network in recent weeks.

SkyCargo will have high hopes for 2022 with the re-opening of DWC SkyCentral. Photo: Emirates SkyCargo 

Emirates SkyCargo, which has continued flying its freighter fleet throughout the pandemic, will be keen to benefit from the upturn in belly-hold capacity. With the return of its dual-hub SkyCentral operation, it will be well-positioned to resume its place operating one of the world's leading air freight hubs.

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