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How Emirates’ equine service delivers for the Dubai World Cup

Emirates Cargo
  • Emirates flies between 1,500 and 1,800 horses every year
  • Its fleet of 11 Boeing B777-F freighter planes can each carry 75 horses
  • The airline’s SkyCentral logistics hub features 45 horse stalls

Saturday’s $30.5 million Dubai World Cup, the world’s richest horse racing event, has again attracted a stellar field of thoroughbreds.

More than 120 horses will compete across the nine-race programme at the Meydan racecourse – and most steeds will fly in via Emirates airline’s specialist equine aircraft.

The event’s line-up features a huge contingent of horses from the US, Japan and Ireland, while others herald from Brazil, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

Transporting such valuable, delicate animals vast distances is big business for the world’s largest international airline. 

“Moving horses has been something that we’ve been doing for years – it comes from the passion that Dubai and the ruler of Dubai have for horses,” Nabil Sultan, Emirates airline’s chief cargo officer, told AGBI. 

The carrier flies around 1,500 to 1,800 horses annually, with 400 alone arriving for this weekend’s Dubai World Cup.

The animals fly on Emirates’ 11-strong fleet of B777-F freighter craft. The planes can carry a maximum of 75 horses per flight, while three of the aircraft feature business-class seats for accompanying grooms and vets to travel with them.

While on board, the horses receive food and water in quantities specified by their stables.

“These are small details, but they’re absolutely essential for the movement of the horses,” said Sultan.

Emirates’ SkyCentral facility in Dubai lays claim to being the world’s largest air logistics hub, spanning both Dubai International and Dubai World Central airports.

It features a stock of 45 purpose-built Emirates Equine horse stalls to transport the animals, while vets are available 24/7.

The stalls have variable steel roofs, non-slip floors, adjustable ventilation covers to provide optimal light and airflow, and groom access doors. Each one can transport up to three horses in separate compartments. There are also specialised horse ramps and walkways to the aircraft.

Sporting contests such as the Dubai World Cup, Olympics and other horse races and show jumping events require Emirates to transport horses worldwide, said Sultan.

Many racehorse owners in the Middle East also fly their steeds to Europe during the summer months for outdoor training.

“We purposely transport a lot of these horses during the night to make sure they are calm. They arrive in a much better condition and can almost hit the ground running – things like that make a big difference,” Sultan added.

Emirates also regularly transports animals between zoos worldwide.