Etihad Airways has converted a fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners to be used to conduct cargo-only flights after all passenger flights in and out of the UAE were banned in an effort to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Authorities ordered the suspension of all passenger flights for a 14-day period starting from Tuesday but air cargo operators are still permitted to fly.
Etihad Cargo is one of the largest air cargo organisations in the region and has ramped up operations to satisfy demand after global cargo capacity crashed with the grounding of passenger planes, which usually transport around half of freight.
To complement its fleet of Boeing 777 freighters, Etihad Cargo is borrowing a fleet of Boeing 787-10 aircraft from its passenger counterpart, Etihad Airways.
The passenger freighters will operate 34 weekly flights, serving 10 markets initially.
Each aircraft will provide capacity for 12 lower deck pallets and four containers, carrying up to 45 tonnes of payload.
The passenger freighter network will introduce capacity into India, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, South Korea and other places where borders remain open for cargo.
The current freighter schedule will also be enhanced by additional flights into Riyadh, London, Hong Kong and Shanghai.
By utilising the Boeing 787 in addition to its freighter fleet, Etihad Cargo will ensure the continuity of vital imports into the UAE including fruits, vegetables, meat, medical supplies, mail and ecommerce, the company said.
“In the current environment and as per our leadership’s guidance, it is essential these trade lanes remain open, and with the addition on this capacity we are able to serve those constrained markets that face decreased passenger freight operations, offering a strategic cargo lifeline and supporting the continuity of the global trade ecosystem,” said Abdulla Mohamed Shadid, managing director, cargo and logistics at Etihad Aviation Group.