you think about it, very early in the pandemic Virgin Atlantic Cargo made
it clear that the red coats were going to take the bull by the horns and
damn the pandemic. They stepped out brilliantly with an aggressive, well
thought out strategy to move cargo upstairs on aircraft seats before anybody
We can never forget that irresistible
determined picture of some nice-looking people masked up out on the ramp
and inside Virgin Atlantic aircraft bringing life to otherwise empty passenger
To be sure, eventually everybody
moved cargo in cabin. But for us we just love and shall never forget that
during those dark days of early 2020, Virgin Cargo took off the gloves and
announced their program to the world in a simple joyous photograph.
At a time when everyone’s back was to
the wall, Virgin Cargo, in a picture that appeared in almost every air cargo
publication in the world, announced: “ Pick yourself up, dust yourself
off and start all over again!”
that bow-tie cargo award parties seem to be staging a cautious comeback
—somebody should hand a special recognition award to Virgin Cargo
for lifting all of us up.
But now it is
July 2021. So in our always “what have you done for me lately world,”
Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director-Virgin Atlantic Cargo, confident as ever,
reports that VS Cargo is ready when you are.
had a record year in 2020, re-engineering our business into a successful
freight-only operation, offering cargo-only services and charters for the
first time in our history,” Dom declared.
“This year of 2021 has also exceeded
our expectations so far, as we await passenger demand and the reopening
up of the United States.
“We’d like to take this opportunity
to thank all of our customers network wide for their support over what
have been a very difficult 15 months for everyone.
“The pandemic taught us that we need
to be agile in order to survive in the most challenging operating conditions
Virgin Atlantic has ever faced. We introduced cargo-only flying, a first
in our history with the first flight, taking place to Shanghai on March
“We have operated 5,760 cargo-only
flights in total and launched 12 new cargo-only routes to Beijing, Boston,
Brussels, Chicago, Dublin, Evenes, Milan, Incheon, Islamabad, Lahore,
San Juan and Xiamen, an unprecedented feat during turbulent operating
conditions and demanding trading environments.
“This resulted in a record performance
over the past year, a testament to the hard work of our teams.”
happens today if you have cargo to move that is different than before
DK: We have
continually reviewed our network, looking at demand and where there might
be new opportunities for both Virgin and our customers. This has resulted
in us flying a variety of goods from new markets, fish from Norway, flowers
from Brussels, carpets from Pakistan and of course much needed PPE and
medical supplies from Shanghai, Beijing and Xiamen. Through amazing teamwork
across the whole of the airline, we have been able to react and adapt
quickly utilizing our fleet of aircraft to the best of its ability to
meet customer demand and reach markets, which the airline has never served
back as someone in the forefront of thinking about things and address
Atlantic Cargo continues to innovate, unveiling our readiness to transport
crucial vaccines and pharmaceutical products through our Pharma Secure
product launch back in November last year.
To ensure the safety and security of this
valuable cargo, we introduced a new Pharma Secure service for all urgent,
valuable and vulnerable pharmaceutical and life sciences shipments. This
new product takes our already well-established pharmaceutical offering
to the next level. We want to offer our customers peace of mind so they
can book confidently with us, knowing their precious cargo will arrive
safely, securely and on time. We continue to play our part in supporting
the Covid-19 recovery by transporting crucial vaccines and pharmaceutical
products to the UK and around the world on our global network, ensuring
swift access to vaccines for the public.
That commitment continues on a global level,
through a new Cargo partnership forged with SkyCell. The partnership strengthens
our ability to transport precious pharmaceutical products, through self-charging,
temperature controlled containers to boost the safety and sustainability
of shipments, as we transport life preserving vaccines around the world
on our network.
went well and what didn’t?
DK: We had
a record year in 2020, with business up 49% year on year, despite a reduction
in capacity. Our partnership with the Department of Health and Social
Care and the NHS is something we are particularly proud of, operating
cargo-only flights from Shanghai to London Heathrow, bringing over 8.5
million kilos of essential PPE into the UK.
I continue to be in awe of our incredible
teams, who work tirelessly and with that core Virgin spirit that has made
our cargo operation the success it is today.
In terms of the challenges, operating amidst ongoing travel restrictions
has been no walk in the park. We have been able to overcome this recently
with ultra-long haul flying for example, where red list destination flights
are operated by two sets of crew to enable services to return straight
back to the UK.
did you discover about yourself and what will you retain from the way
you have had to do business these past 15 months?
is an industry that moves at a phenomenal pace and no day is the same
and the last 15 months have been the most challenging but also the most
rewarding. To work for a company that has empowered cargo to lead the
way through the COVID crisis has been a real honour and privilege. Of
course, we are looking forward to the world opening up and welcoming our
passengers on board, but it has been a fantastic opportunity to show to
the world the valuable role cargo plays.
really, working for an airline and in the aviation industry, we are used
up to your staff and customers as you think about these things and move
DK: As mentioned
already, I am in total awe of every single member of our cargo team and
I cannot thank them enough for the role they have played in the survival
of Virgin Atlantic. To our customers, again, the biggest thank you—their
support, and that of our suppliers, continues to contribute to the survival
of Virgin Atlantic.
are you most looking forward to doing both business and personally as
restrictions ease and COVID finally recedes?
DK: In terms
of business, I look forward to spending more face-to-face time with our
customers, colleagues and partners. As for me personally, like the rest
of the world, I can’t wait to step on a plane and head to somewhere
you a bit fatigued of zoom, webinar and other web-driven contact? Or will
you make that medium a go to form of contact and communication? If answering
yes, how much face-to-face? Or wait and see how you feel?
DK: I think
it is a combination of the above. Virgin Atlantic recognized the need
to work incredibly quickly and efficiently at the start of the pandemic,
and web-driven contact enabled this. However, face-to-face contact certainly
allows for further communication and deeper discussions, which I know
the team have enjoyed as they’ve started to spend more time in our
offices and cargo facilities.
will Virgin Cargo emerge during the rest of 2021? Name the highs of course
but also what can we all do better?
Atlantic Cargo will continue to play a vital role as the airline looks
to return to normal service. Our flights to Europe continue to be in popular
demand, which has dramatically shifted our route network. Highs also include
the success of our Pharma Secure product, as we continue to support the
vital global transportation of vaccine distribution and life sciences
Sustainability will continue to be a key
focus, careful consideration of fuel and carbon efficiency have been built
into our fleet decisions for many years - and will remain a key feature
of our fleet planning. We have committed to achieve Net Zero emissions
by 2050, and will be pursing all avenues to achieve that goal –
through fleet and operational efficiencies. Environmental responsibility
is considered in everything we do.
has air cargo shown during the pandemic and should there be an industry
wide campaign to advance air cargo to targeted industries or some other
form of coordinated effort led by FIATA, IATA, CNS or even alliance partners?
If so what would be the message?
Atlantic and air cargo has adapted and innovated to ensure its long term
future post pandemic. We launched our cargo operations in direct response
to global conditions and remain committed to keeping global supply chains
would you tell a young man or woman entering air cargo right now, knowing
what has happened during the past 15 months in addition to your career
DK: If you
want to work for an ever-changing industry, where no day is the same,
have the opportunity to innovate and share ideas, plus get to meet and
work alongside the most wonderful people—then this job is for you.