Emirates SkyCargo is operating special charter flights to fly 247 horses from Liege to Tokyo for the upcoming Olympic Games.
The first flight with 36 dressage horses has already landed at Tokyo Haneda – the first full cargo load of horses ever to land at the waterfront airport.
The equine Olympic stars include Bella Rose, the mare ridden by Germany’s Isabell Werth, the most decorated Olympic equestrian athlete of all time, and Gio, the ride of Great Britain’s double Olympic champion Charlotte Dujardin – who will be bidding for a three-in-a-row title in Tokyo.
“To see these horses arriving at Haneda is a truly historic occasion, and what makes it even more special is that these are not simply horses, they are Olympic horses,” said Tokyo International Airport administrator Takahashi Koji. “It’s a really big night for the airport, and particularly for the cargo team, and we see it as one of the major milestones of the final countdown to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”
Boeing 777 freighter aircraft are being used to move the horses over eight flights. Across the flights, there will be 131 specially designed horse stalls, 59 grooms to look after the horses and an onboard veterinarian, 100 tonnes of special equipment and 20 tonnes of food and drink. The horses fly two per pallet, or flying stable, which is the equivalent of business class.
Emirates will be operating an additional eight flights for the return journey from Tokyo to Liege. The carrier is working with Peden Bloodstock, an international horse transportation specialist.
Emirates said it had decades of experience in transporting horses across six continents for international sporting events. The airline is also the title sponsor of several global horse racing tournaments and is a sponsor of horse racing team Godolphin.
The flights comply with regulations set out by national and international authorities on live animal transport, including International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations on live animals.
A total of seven countries will be fielding full teams in the three Olympic equestrian disciplines, including the host nation Japan. The others are Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden and the USA.