This week, Emirates SkyCargo and Cargolux Airlines expanded the scope of a “strategic operational partnership” the two carriers reached in May of this year to include codesharing for air cargo shipments. As part of the agreement, both airlines will be able to sell space on network-wide flights operated by either carrier, regardless of whether the capacity is on the main decks of freighters or in the bellyholds of passenger aircraft. As is common in the passenger business, Emirates and SkyCargo will continue to market and sell space under their own flight numbers and air waybills, even if the other carrier is transporting the cargo.
The original partnership agreement between the airlines included reciprocal block space and interline agreements, joint handling at each other’s major hubs (Dubai and Luxembourg), and, for Emirates, access to Cargolux 747Fs for heavy/outsized cargo requiring nose loading or cargo otherwise unsuitable for Emirates’ own 777F fleet. A few visible changes have already come about as a results of the partnership. Emirates has begun offering regular scheduled freighter flights to Luxembourg, and Cargolux switched over to dnata for the handling of its cargo at Dubai World Central Airport. Emirates has also chartered Cargolux 747 freighters.
For Cargolux, Emirates will be one of two key partners. In 2013, China-based Henan Civil Aviation and Investment Co. (HNCA) acquired a 35% in the Luxembourg-based carrier, and the two companies have since laid the groundwork for an all-cargo airline joint venture, Henan Cargo Airlines, to be based in Zhengzhou. The jv airline has been repeatedly delayed, but is said to be preparing for launch next year with a fleet of three 747-400Fs.
Looking ahead, the Cargolux’s alliances with HNCA and SkyCargo should reinforce each of the partners’ ability to counter emerging goliath Qatar Airways’ expanding freighter presence in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Exactly how Cargolux’s Henan Cargo Airlines will factor into Cargolux’s long-term strategy, and partnership with Emirates remains to be seen. One thing that is for sure, widebody freighters have made a comeback. Both carriers continue to operate substantial widebody freighter fleets. Emirates currently operates thirteen 777Fs and a single 747ERF that is ACMI-leased from ASL Airlines. Cargolux meanwhile, is an all-747F operator with a fleet comprised of fourteen -8Fs and thirteen -400Fs.