Emirates may ditch A310Fs early

Emirates is considering retiring its three A310 freighters early, because of the high fuel prices, according to its divisional senior vice president for cargo, Ram Menen. Peter Conway reports.

Emirates’ A310 freighters were due to be retired by 2010 or 2011 anyway, but Menen now says they could go much sooner.

The A310s were a controversial choice in the first place, because they have relatively high fuel consumption compared to the more efficient A300-600 used by rivals such as Etihad and Qatar Airways.

Demand for regional freighters at Emirates has also been reduced recently due to a rise in belly capacity. For example, since a new bilateral was signed in April, Emirates has been ramping up its passenger flights to India, which are operated with A330 or 777 aircraft with generous belly capacity. Previously there was a strict limit on passenger flights from the UAE to India, but no restriction on cargo rights.

Meanwhile A310F destinations in Africa are becoming less viable due to the high fuel price, with Emirates with drawing the freighter from Djibouti recently, and reducing frequencies toNairobi.

The carrier has the first of its 777 freighters arriving at the end of the year,with a second due to follow in April.Menen says he is keeping options open about-whether these will replace any ofthe seven B747F freighters Emirates have on lease – five on an ACMI basis, and the other three on CMI.

“We are in a very comfortable situation in that we have that flexibility. We can continue the lease or terminate them,”he says.

The carrier is seeing weaker growth out of China, and has not yet had the charter enquiries for extra peak capacity that it might expect at this time of year,but Menen was hoping in mid-July that there might be an upturn after theOlympic Games.

In general, however, he predicts that air cargo will face three “lost years” of growth from the current global economic downturn. “What ever was being predicted at the start of 2007, that will now happen in 2010,” he says.