Cargo giants play waiting game over Al Maktoum Int’l


By Ed Attwood

Several of the world’s largest cargo operators appear to have adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach about when to shift over their operations to the Dubai’s Al Maktoum International (AMI) airport.

As the first commercial flight lands at the new airport on Sunday, officials are adopting a two-pronged strategy to convince airlines to move to AMI, offering incentives and banning certain types of older, noisier cargo aircraft from the emirate’s main Dubai International Airport.

After weeks of silence, executives confirmed on Sunday that 15 airfreight firms had signed up to operate from AMI, with varying start dates.

Among the airlines were Coyne Airways, which flies scheduled A300 and Il-76 flights from Dubai to various locations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Rus Aviation, which will move over from its current Sharjah base.

However, many more cargo companies have yet to decide whether they will sign up to operate from Al Maktoum International.

Cargolux senior vice president of sales and marketing Robert van der Weg said that the airline – one of the world’s biggest all-cargo carriers – had no plans to shift its operations from Dubai International Airport “at this time”.

Atlas Air, which has a fleet of 28 B747 freighters and an office in the Dubai Airport Free Zone, said that any flying and related ground operations activity at the new airport would be dictated entirely by demand from its clients.

“We certainly have the ability and flexibility to fly into a great number of airports around the world, including Al Maktoum International, on either a recurring or a periodic basis – all depending on our customers’ wants and needs,” said Bonnie Rodney, Atlas Air’s marketing and communications director.

But a spokesperson from FedEx, which owns the world’s largest cargo airfleet, said that it had no plans to move to AMI, as it already has a major hub at Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 2.

Dutch express giant TNT indicated that it was “excited” by developments at the site, and that its future operational position “had to include” AMI.

“We are preparing ourselves for the coming years in close cooperation with the authorities and will be able to discuss our growth strategies further in the coming months,” said TNT UAE sales and marketing director Mark Woodcock.

A senior executive from DHL’s local logistics partnership said that it was planning to utilise the new airport and its logistics facilities, although not immediately.

“Danzas is looking forward to set up offices and warehouse in the Cargo Village as well as the Logistics City in the next two years,” said DHL Global Forwarding’s emerging markets CEO, Enver Moretti.

But Andrew Walsh, vice president, Cargo & Logistics at Dubai Airports, told Arabian Business that the airport was working closely with the express firms to ensure that they would have the required facilities.

“At the moment, that segment of the industry is heavily integrated with the passenger industry, as they move a lot of material via belly capacity – so they are likely to stay at the current airport for the time being. But we are talking to them about the facilities and we need to develop those facilities out of Dubai World Central,” Walsh said.

Walsh said he was confident that the new airport would meet its first-year target, which is to fill the capacity of the cargo terminal by October 2011. The facility has been designed to handle 250,000 tonnes a year.

“To translate that, that’s currently the volume that we see all the main-deck freighters taking to and from Dubai International Airport today,” he added.