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Family Aid 2020
   Vol. 20 No. 29
Wednesday July 28, 2021
Irresistible Virgin Cargo
    When 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 else.
     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 cabins.
     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!”
     Now 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.
     “We 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.

Giving Thanks

     “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.

Lessons Learned

     “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 23.
     “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.”

FT:   What happens today if you have cargo to move that is different than before the pandemic?
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 before.

FT:   Step back as someone in the forefront of thinking about things and address vaccine distribution.
DK:  Virgin 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.

FT:   What 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.

FT:   What did you discover about yourself and what will you retain from the way you have had to do business these past 15 months?
DK:  This 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.

FT:   What surprised you?
DK:  Nothing really, working for an airline and in the aviation industry, we are used to surprises.

FT:   Word up to your staff and customers as you think about these things and move forward.
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.

FT:   What 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 sunny.

FT:   Are 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.

FT:   How will Virgin Cargo emerge during the rest of 2021? Name the highs of course but also what can we all do better?
DK:  Virgin 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 shipments.
     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.

FT:   What 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?
DK:  Virgin 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 open.

FT:   What 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 experience?
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.

If You Missed Any Of The Previous 3 Issues Of FlyingTypers
Access complete issue by clicking on issue icon or
Access specific articles by clicking on article title
Vol. 20 No. 26
New USMCA Rules
Man Bites Dog for Cargo Security
Chuckles for July 7, 2021
Pumping Traffic for July 7, 2021
COVID Devastation of India
Contrails Days May Be Numbered

Vol. 20 No. 27
Brendan Sullivan Global Head IATA Cargo
Turgut A Force for Good
Chuckles for July 12, 2021
Small Hotel Close To Home

Vol. 20 No. 28
Tokyo Olympics Heat Up
Virgin Cargo On Pandemic
Talking It Up Lying Down
Chuckles for July 20, 2021
Don't Count Out Hong Kong
PumpingTraffic for July 20, 2021
Never Forget Flight 800

Publisher-Geoffrey Arend • Managing Editor-Flossie Arend • Editor Emeritus-Richard Malkin
Film Editor-Ralph Arend • Special Assignments-Sabiha Arend, Emily Arend

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