Cometh the hour, cometh the solution

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John Cheetham

ACW caught up with John Cheetham, Chief Commercial Officer at IAG Cargo, about how the Group is responding to this most extraordinary crisis.

ACW: When there is a vaccine for Coronavirus, would you anticipate an uptick in pharma traffic from the medicine?

As and when a vaccine becomes available we will be working to ensure it is moved to wherever it is needed.

ACW: Have you seen a significantly higher demand and volumes from e-Commerce and health care and essential supplies?

We are continuing to see very strong demand for fresh produce, medicines and other essential supplies and are working hard to ensure products continue to move around the world.

As you would expect, things like surgical masks, gowns and gloves have been in high demand. We’re also moving COVID-19 testing equipment.

The vital essentials that people depend on aren’t always immediately obvious and come in all shapes and sizes.

Over the last week, for example, we’ve been flying large quantities of contact lenses to North America.

ACW: Regarding the hygiene, safety and security of cargo, what steps has IAG Cargo been able to put in place in the network?

 At IAG Cargo hygiene, safety and security are always our topmost priorities and we have robust procedures in place.

ACW: Clearly the suspending of pax flights + bellyhold capacity has hit capacity: which constituent airline has suffered the most shrinking of capacity?

This is an ongoing pandemic which is affecting different regions at different times. We are working closely with our customers to provide alternative solutions for capacity, for example providing customers the opportunity to charter our planes. My team is working 24/7 to make sure that we are utilising any additional capacity during this fluid period and we have the agility to offer additional services across any of our airlines.

ACW: How is the Madrid cargo hub faring at the moment, given the crisis in Spain?

Our Madrid cargo hub is still open and operational – we know how important it is to keep products moving and are doing what we can to ensure this continues.

ACW: Are you looking to charter cargo aircraft at all at present? What about American Airlines’ idea to send empty pax aircraft across the Atlantic with bellyhold cargo? Is that something you could look at?

It’s actually something we are already doing. We were quick in offering this solution to our customers and a good number of them have already chartered our passenger aircraft for cargo.

From a charter perspective we’ve also been supporting governments, including bringing medical equipment in from the United States.

Based on the demand for charters, we have now established a specialist charter team to facilitate requests. The team is working very closely with our airlines. If forwarders are interested in this solution then we encourage them to get in touch with their IAG Cargo sales representatives.

We are also running scheduled cargo-only flights and will continue to do this wherever there is sufficient demand. For example, with Aer Lingus we are providing daily transatlantic services out of Dublin to New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Toronto.

ACW: How co-operative have your customers been in working with you on the matter of the hygiene, safety and security of cargo?

Like us, our customers have also been working hard to ensure that cargo is delivered in a safe, secure and hygienic way.

This is a very challenging time for all involved in the aviation industry. Our focus for the coming weeks and months is to keep vital supplies moving around the world – we will be working as closely as we can with our customers and governments to ensure we can continue to do this throughout the ongoing pandemic.

I’m hugely proud of how my team are confronting the task at hand, how proactive everyone is being and how everyone is pulling together. More than ever, speed and our ability to adapt quickly to the changing market is critical. That’s why I’m particularly pleased with the innovative customer solutions that I’m seeing from my team on a daily basis such as the chartering of passenger airlines for cargo and running scheduled cargo-only flights.