Keeping it simple is the key to success

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Clear and precise product messaging is one of the keys behind Virgin Atlantic Cargo’s success in pharma, according to managing director Dominic Kennedy, writes Neil Madden.

“We know from speaking to our customers that they consider our products to be clear and simple, and that’s always been our aim,” Kennedy tells Air Cargo Week.

“Everything we do is based on what our customers tell us they need. There’s no need to overcomplicate products because customers are very knowledgeable and they just have to be confident that you will deliver what you promise, irrespective of the product or service they’re buying.”

Pharma has been one of the fastest growing markets for the carrier along with e-commerce shipments.

The Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences product offers passive or active temperature control, but these can also be tailored to fit with the carrier’s ‘Just Ride’ and ‘Must Ride’ services.

“In the case of pharma, we are certainly benefiting from the opening of our new Pharma Zone at London Heathrow and we also recently received our GDP (good distribution practice) compliance for our global headquarters and Pharma Zone,” Kennedy says. “So, we are expecting another strong year of pharma growth in 2018.”

The 4,000 square foot pharma zone opened in October 2017 and provides two walk-in pods capable of maintaining 2-8°C (COL) and 15-25°C (CRT) temperature ranges for loose pharma shipments, along with temperature-controlled storage for 24 pallets (CRT + COL), located high above the warehouse floor in the ETV system to ensure the security and integrity of the cargo.

Along with 10 charging points for active containers, the facility has a segregated area dedicated to pharma handling and pallet building.

A designated door for pharma shipments is designed to speed their flow through the warehouse and reduce the time products spend outside of a temperature-controlled environment.

“Our network and frequency of services is another key factor in the growth of both pharma and e-commerce,” Kennedy adds. “The biggest market for pharma products is transatlantic and, along with our joint-venture partner Delta Cargo, we now provide around a quarter of transatlantic cargo capacity.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo managing director, Dominic Kennedy

“We are also seeing more pharma shipments on our direct services to other markets too, such as India and China, and we have increased the choice of temperature-controlled ‘active’ cargo containers we provide to give our customers more choice. For example, at the start of 2018, we were the first UK airline to approve the new CSafe RAP container for higher volume pharma shipments.”

As a belly hold-only carrier Virgin can offer high frequencies of direct services to and from major markets such as the US, China, Hong Kong, India, Africa and the Middle East, says Kennedy.

“We also sell the belly hold capacity on Virgin Australia’s long haul network between Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and Los Angeles, Melbourne-Hong Kong and from July, the airline’s new Sydney-Hong Kong services,” he points out.

“Demand for cargo capacity, especially ex-UK, was exceptional in the Q4 2017 peak and our load factors continue to be well above the industry average. The level of demand towards the end of last year certainly put us and our freight forwarder customers under great pressure but we had learned a lot from our experience of managing the peak at the end of 2016 and we worked closely with our customers to ensure we moved their cargo as they wanted us to.”