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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Low-Tech Air Shipper Soars On Dubai Exports to Russia

DUBAI -- Armed with a fleet of Soviet-era freighters, a former United Arab Emirates ambassador and his Russian partners are competing with a small army of charter airlines riding a lucrative export wave to the former Soviet Union.


Sheikh Abdulla Zayed Saqr al-Nahayan, head of Flying Dolphin airlines, formed the joint venture with a private Russian operator almost five years ago. It is now one of the busiest foreign cargo operators out of Dubai.


"Ninety percent of our business is to Russian destinations," said Sheikh Abdulla.


In June, Flying Dolphin was the second biggest foreign operator out of Dubai, lifting 912.5 tons, behind KLM Royal Dutch Airlines NV, with 997 tons of cargo exports.


The company's quick rise has paralleled Dubai's efforts to cement its standing as a regional trading and re-export hub. Its airport is the busiest in the Gulf.


Russia is among the top 10 re-export outlets for Dubai, absorbing $90.6 million in goods in 1995, jumping from $24.3 million the previous year.


Every day, throngs of Russian traders and shopping tourists clutching wads of cash descend on the emirate's electronics shops and textile souks, taking advantage of low import duties to pick up competitively priced goods to sell back home.


While other airlines have increased capacity through Dubai with wide-bodied planes, Flying Dolphin has stuck to five Antonov 12s, which went out of production in the early 1970s.


Antonov 12s are small planes, each with capacity for about 100 cubic meters, or 12 to 14 tons, of cargo.


Sheikh Abdulla said cargo carried to Russia is mostly of electronics, textiles and furniture.


The airline operates three or four flights a day out of Dubai, carrying an average of 1,200 tons a month.


The operator's top destinations in the former Soviet Union are Anapa and Sochi on the Black Sea, Nalchic, Vladikavkaz and Chelyabinsk.