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From Abu Dhabi To The World With Etihad Cargo

Leonard Rodrigues, Head of Revenue Management & Network Planning at Etihad Cargo, touts the company’s progressive growth and reach…

Since its founding almost 20 years ago, Etihad Cargo, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates and the cargo and logistics division of Etihad Airways, has grown steadily, utilising the hub’s advantageous location in Abu Dhabi to enhance connectivity and expand its global network. Through Etihad’s expanding passenger network, which links the United Arab Emirates to more than 70 destinations worldwide, they provide capacity globally from their hub at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). Etihad Cargo is currently serving 12 destinations in the Middle East, Europe, the USA, Africa, and Asia as it continues to expand its global freighter network.

Fleet Management

Etihad Cargo has one of the industry’s youngest and most fuel-efficient fleets of Boeing 777 production freighters. “We were the first Middle Eastern carrier to firm up orders for the new-generation Airbus 350 freighter. We are expecting the first delivery of the seven aircraft ordered in 2026, and we will be adding B787s and A350s in the coming year,” shares Leonard Rodrigues, Head of Revenue Management & Network Planning at Etihad Cargo.

Leonard Rodrigues, Head of Revenue Management & Network Planning at Etihad Cargo

Etihad Cargo is dedicated to making sure that all cargo carried by their aircraft can be transported in the best possible way, safely and securely. Etihad Cargo holds IOSA certification that adheres to a comprehensive Safety Manager System (SMS) encompassing risk assessment, safety reporting, training, and awareness campaigns.

Etihad Cargo, being a UAE-based company, complies with regulations set forth by the General Civil Aviation Authority, which guarantees that operators uphold the safety and security of the aviation sector in the UAE. Furthermore, they have established reliable practices and guidelines that comply with all relevant legal frameworks and are recorded in Etihad Cargo’s operational manuals. “These processes and procedures guide our handling partners on the acceptance, handling, storage, loading and unloading of all cargo transported on Etihad Cargo’s aircraft. As a last line of defence, we have Etihad Cargo loadmasters operating on all freighters,” states Leonard.

Industry Specifications

With an eight-strong premium product range, they tailor the products and services provided to customers and partners in a diverse range of industries and sectors to maximise capacity across their global network.

Etihad Cargo offers two excellent chain products: PharmaLife for the shipment of pharmaceuticals, healthcare or life sciences commodities and FreshForward for the shipment of perishable fresh produce, including fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish, meat and flowers.

One of their primary offerings is PharmaLife, and they work closely with partners to offer a solid, dependable, and effective solution for the international transportation of pharmaceuticals and life sciences goods. To start initiatives like the Pharma Corridor 2.0, a fully compliant origin-to-destination pharma air corridor, and dedicated long-term storage areas, like KEZAD, a premier economic zone for life sciences located in Abu Dhabi that hosts numerous pharmaceutical manufacturers, life science businesses, laboratories, packing businesses, and supporting services, Etihad Cargo, for instance, is collaborating closely with the Department of Health, customs, the police, ground handling partners, and freight forwarders.

In 2022, Etihad Cargo became the first airline in the Middle East and only the third globally to hold IATA’s CEIV Live Animals, CEIV Fresh and CEIV Pharma certifications. “Our eight-strong premium product range also includes FlightValet for the transportation of high-value vehicles, FlyCulture for the transportation of rare and valuable paintings, sculptures and musical instruments, SafeGuard for the transportation of high-value and precious cargo, and our dedicated air mail and e-commerce product,” comments Leonard.


Etihad Cargo’s customers are at the heart of everything they do, and the digital solutions they have developed and launched are making it easier for customers to monitor their shipments. For example, the revamped booking portal lets customers book, track and manage their air cargo shipments.

Leonard adds, “Our digital transformation has seen us proactively find solutions for our customers and automate solutions at our state-of-the-art Cargo Control Centre, which monitors and steers its global cargo flows round-the-clock.” Smart solutions adopted include the automation of customer messaging, pre-alert messages to inform stakeholders at its hub and outstations, service-level monitoring of handling providers, identification of service failures or irregularities to allow for immediate response actions, and live tracking of trucking services.

Etihad Cargo has further automated air cargo processes using Descartes’ next-generation Internet of Things (IoT) Bluetooth® Low Energy solution integrated with Jettainer’s unit load device (ULD) management services. The combined solutions expand Etihad Cargo’s ability to improve ground processes at cargo and ULD handling and to gain data-driven insights into the transport and ambient conditions of air cargo in transit. To further enhance the trackability of perishable and pharmaceutical shipments, they have also conducted a pilot with Trackonomy, using state-of-the-art sensors to monitor location, temperature, humidity and tilt.

Customs Clearance

Trade compliance is a top concern for Etihad Cargo. As a cargo carrier, Etihad Cargo plays a significant role within the supply chain, and they have an increased responsibility to act as a filter and aid compliance. To mitigate the high-risk exposure to the businesses by facilitating the transportation of controlled commodities and cargo to or from sanctioned parties, Etihad Cargo has a dedicated team to ensure the carrier’s legal, trade and operational compliance.

As an extra layer of security, Etihad Cargo complies with Pre-Loading Advance Cargo Information (PLACI) requirements, which are active in the US and Europe, with the UAE, the UK and Canada expected to go live in 2024. This new security requirement mandates shipments arriving at specific destinations must be pre-cleared by the respective regulatory authority before uplift from the last point of departure. Etihad Cargo maintains 100 per cent compliance with these requirements and ensures that any cargo not cleared is not uplifted.

Successful Projects Or Partnerships 

The transportation projects they have been involved with demonstrate Etihad Cargo’s capabilities to provide comprehensive solutions in short timelines. For example, they offered an aircraft and delivered aid to the Phillippines within 24 hours in response to the natural disaster on behalf of Abu Dhabi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

Partnership and finding the right partners is a core focus for Etihad Cargo and is a crucial enabler for them to achieve their ambitious growth plans. Etihad Cargo’s partnership based on a reciprocal block agreement with SF Airlines is an excellent example and will help Etihad Cargo deliver on its commitment to the Chinese market. “In the short term, this partnership will enable Etihad Cargo to add depth to our network by providing additional online feeds into our passenger network. As a result of this partnership, we have added Ezhou to our network and can provide capacity to China’s five national-level city clusters via railway, waterway, expressway and air transportation infrastructure within a two-hour flight,” states Leonard.

Temperature-Controlled Containers

Via their IATA CEIV Pharma-certified product PharmaLife, Etihad Cargo ensures pharmaceuticals are transported reliably, efficiently and safely, tracking and monitoring shipments at every journey stage. They have invested in digital solutions and initiatives that have brought much-needed transparency, traceability and trackability to the sector, benefiting customers and the global pharma supply chain.

Leonard says, “We have established dedicated temperature-controlled facilities and infrastructure to maintain the required temperature ranges, from -80 to 25 degrees Celsius, throughout the transportation process. To expand our pharma storage capabilities, Etihad Cargo has launched a state-of-the-art cool chain facility at Abu Dhabi Airport.” Established in partnership with Etihad Airport Services Cargo and Abu Dhabi Airports, the new pharma facility will double Etihad Cargo’s astonishing chain capacity to carry and accommodate an additional 50,000 tonnes of excellent chain commodities, including pharmaceuticals and life sciences products. The pharma hub will support the growing global healthcare and life sciences demand.

By offering state-of-the-art temperature-controlled solutions, such as temperature-controlled containers and specialised packaging, Etihad Cargo ensures the integrity and efficacy of products. Etihad Cargo’s thermal covers help them mitigate environmental risks, such as the ambient temperature, as pharmaceutical cargo is transported from the aircraft to their dedicated temperature-controlled pharmaceutical facility. “We have launched these covers for PharmaLife products into our top pharma origin stations, including Amsterdam and Paris,” concludes Leonard. They also can provide this new feature on demand so that the customers can reach out to their dedicated PharmaLife team anywhere in the world.