Wednesday, July 24, 2024
Abu Dhabi to Asia

Abu Dhabi to Asia

Having grown its presence in Asia, Etihad Cargo offers 335 weekly scheduled passenger and freighter flights across major trade routes in the region.  

As part of the carrier’s winter schedule, Etihad Cargo has also strengthened its commitment to the Asian market, introducing additional cargo capacity via new routes and increased frequencies.  

For China, they have added three more flights to Beijing and four more flights to Shanghai per week, providing additional cargo capacity and adding further depth to their Chinese network.  

To meet increased cargo capacity demand in the Indian market, Etihad Cargo is offering more belly hold cargo capacity across new passenger routes to Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, operating seven flights per week to each destination. Seven new passenger flights to Chennai bring the total number of weekly flights to 21, supported by a twice-weekly freighter service. The carrier is also offering eight additional flights to Kochi. For Japan, they are operating five passenger flights per week to Osaka, a second Japanese gateway destination for the carrier. 

“Asia’s prominence in airfreight operations can be attributed to a combination of geographical, economic, and industrial factors,” Latha Narayan, Director Commercial APAC, Australasia and ISC, Etihad Cargo, said. “The strategic geographical location of Asia plays a crucial role.  

“It serves as a central hub connecting the East and West, making it a natural transit point for international cargo,” she added. “This positioning allows for efficient and cost-effective transportation of goods between major global markets. As a result, Asia is a target region for Etihad Cargo, as our hub in Abu Dhabi is also establishing itself as a strong region for airfreight operations.” 

Trade targets 

Two key markets with great potential for growth and opportunity are China and India. Etihad Cargo is committed to expanding its reach into the Chinese market, growing its network and adding frequencies across key routes in resonance with the growth of its European and American networks.  

In recent months, Etihad Cargo has added a fourth Chinese gateway to its network, offering a weekly freighter service to Ezhou in the Hubei Province of China.  

Earlier this year, they entered into a mutual blockspace agreement with China’s SF Airlines. This partnership saw both airlines operate freighter flights between Abu Dhabi and the Hubei province.  

“As a result of this partnership, we are providing our customers and partners with greater access to 25 offline domestic destinations, including Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Nanjing, with plans to add more destinations in the future,” Narayan stated. “The introduction of Ezhou to Etihad Cargo’s Chinese network has enabled Etihad Cargo to offer greater connectivity to China’s five national-level city clusters via the airport’s transportation infrastructure, including railway, waterway, expressway and air links. 

Etihad Cargo has also identified India as a key market for growth, increasing the belly hold and freighter capacity it offers to this market to meet increased demand. Etihad Cargo reinstated a twice-weekly freighter service from Shanghai to Abu Dhabi via Chennai in 2022, providing additional capacity into two key global markets.  

“While we have always served that demand, through continuous evaluation of our network, Etihad Cargo identified the need for a direct service, and we will continue to review our network, adding destinations and frequencies, and optimising freighter utilisation to support key trade lanes and customer demand,” she continued. 

Importance and investment 

Generally, Asia has become an increasingly important hub for cargo operations because of its strategic geographic location and economic boom, with China and India especially witnessing increased production and trade activities. This surge in economic activity translates to a higher volume of goods being transported, necessitating efficient cargo operations. 

Abu Dhabi and the UAE align with many of Asia’s key cargo hubs, and Abu Dhabi International Airport has invested significantly in its cargo infrastructure, including the development of dedicated cargo terminals equipped with modern handling and advanced warehousing facilities, the launch of a dedicated, state-of-the-art cool chain facility and the Midfield Terminal, which will launch later this year. 

“We have also established partnerships that have contributed to the UAE’s evolution as a cargo hub and strengthened ties between the UAE and Asia, including Etihad Cargo’s partnership with China’s SF Airlines, which will enable both carriers to achieve mutual growth and support the vision of Abu Dhabi and Ezhou in the Hubei Province to become major global logistics and express hubs,” Narayan explained. 

Etihad Cargo is further focusing on specialised commodities, such as live tropical fish, valuables and pharmaceuticals, in addition to general cargo, via its eight-strong premium product range. Ensuring a strong product mix on its flights allows it, in a sense, to avoid putting all our eggs in one basket, so it can continue to achieve maximum loads on its flights. 

The exponential growth of e-commerce has further elevated the importance of Asia in cargo operations, with garments driving this demand. The region is a major source of goods for online retailers, and the time-sensitive nature of e-commerce transactions often requires the speed and reliability offered by airfreight. Etihad Cargo has continued to develop its dedicated e-commerce product to meet the demand for the sector. 

Perishables and pharmaceuticals are also key sectors for Etihad Cargo’s operations in Asia. 15-20% of its perishables and pharmaceuticals cargo originates from Asia, and 60-70% of its volumes are destined for Asia. India is one of its top perishable markets. Pharmaceuticals is also a growing sector in India. The country is establishing itself as a healthcare hub, which is driving demand for IATA CEIV Pharma-certified products. Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad are some of the key gateways used out of India for pharmaceuticals traffic.  

Hyderabad, for example, is a top healthcare and active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) commodity production and distribution area. Etihad Cargo estimates that up to 50% of global flows ex-Hyderabad are currently from this segment. Some of the commodities transported out of Hyderabad require a temperature-controlled environment and advanced packaging solutions. Etihad Cargo’s PharmaLife product is perfectly positioned to address these needs. 

“Partnerships will continue to be a focus for Etihad Cargo as a key enabler to expanding our capacity for this key region and addressing the growing demand for pharmaceuticals and e-commerce,” Narayan stated. “We are exploring further partnerships that will benefit not only Etihad Cargo’s customers but also further position Abu Dhabi as a global logistics and express hub.” 

Picture of Edward Hardy

Edward Hardy

Having become a journalist after university, Edward Hardy has been a reporter and editor at some of the world's leading publications and news sites. In 2022, he became Air Cargo Week's Editor. Got news to share? Contact me on


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