John Cheetham: In my opinion…

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John Cheetham


John Cheetham, chief commercial officer, IAG Cargo, on harnessing the momentum from a strong 2020.

At the start of 2020, we could never have predicted the sudden impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the air cargo sector or how our business would have responded to the extraordinary changes it brought about. And yet, as we look back a year on, I’m incredibly proud of the team at IAG Cargo. Their hard work and dedication has kept us delivering for our customers, no matter the circumstances.

In 2020, IAG Cargo delivered exceptional results, with commercial revenues of €1,306 million, an increase of 18.5% on 2019 at constant currency. This fantastic achievement was a result of adapting quickly and inovatively to the COVID-19 pandemic. Early on we set up an extensive cargo-only network, developed a Charter service managed by a newly formed specialist team, gained clearance to use the cabins for freight as well creating extra cargo capacity and continued to respond to customer demand by both reopening and creating new routes throughout the year or increasing cargo-only rotations.

Setting records

Throughout the pandemic, air cargo connected businesses with customers worldwide as lockdowns impacted economies. Our charter flights have flown large volumes of e-Commerce, perishables and industrial supplies during 2020 and have continued to do so in 2021.

At the end of 2020 we flew record volumes of cherries from Latin America to Spain, the UK and China, connecting Chilean and Argentinian farmers with international markets. 2020 showed more than ever the importance of air cargo for facilitating global trade and being a safe, reliable, and timely method for transporting essential supplies worldwide.

After an extraordinary 2020, IAG Cargo is off to a flying start in 2021 – building on the momentum and successes of 2020 we’re taking forward everything we learnt from the year.

Popular solution

Charters have proved to be a popular solution, and we have seen increasing demand from customers and shippers for this tailored service. Within the first two months of 2021 we had already flown 8,000 tonnes of automotive parts via our charter flights. We continue to support the industry with a cargo-only scheduled network and provide a bespoke service tailored to customers’ needs, such as opening new stations or working with our Interline customers to ensure we can get their cargo where it needs to be.

Since the end of December 2020, IAG Cargo has been supporting the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to all parts of the world. Here, we hit the ground running, transporting over a million doses of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide by January 2021. Equally, we were delighted to commit our support to the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative, which will deliver vaccines to vulnerable and remote populations. We are proud to be taking part in this initiative and it will be an important part of our work in 2021.

This week we are also celebrating our 10th anniversary as a business, a major milestone for IAG Cargo. 2020 was a challenging year but we’ve shown how resilient and innovative our business can be.

For 2021, our priority remains supporting our customers in key sectors of the global economy to continue in their recovery, and to keep on transporting essential supplies in the fight against COVID-19.