Pharma and e-commerce help Virgin Cargo volumes hit five year high

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Revenue at Virgin Atlantic Cargo increased nine per cent in 2017 and volumes have reached a five year high driven by strong demand in pharmaceutical and e-commerce shipments.

The airline carried 230,500 tonnes of cargo in 2017, up six per cent thanks to particularly strong westbound business to the USA with daily Heathrow-Seattle services performing above expectations and strong double digit gains to other US destinations from London and Manchester.

Daily services to India and Africa saw strong gains, as did routes to the UK, as well as from China and the USA.

Virgin Australia was boosted by the launch of Melbourne – Los Angeles services in April and new daily Melbourne – Hong Kong flights in November.

In addition to growth in perishables and high value cargo shipments in 2017, the biggest gains came from the carriage of pharmaceuticals and e-commerce shipments.

Pharmaceuticals were supported by the opening of its new Heathrow Pharma Zone with joint venture partner Delta Cargo for temperature controlled life science and pharmaceutical products in October 2017, with shipments rising 20 per cent.

E-commerce was boosted by high service levels and quick connections to major consumer markets in the US, Middle East, China and Australia.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo managing director, Dominic Kennedy says: “There’s no doubt the air cargo market was buoyant in 2017 compared to previous years but there was still strong competition for this business. We are delighted with the results we have delivered for the airline, which are a tribute to the outstanding performance of our entire Cargo team.

“With our prime route network, growing capabilities to transport specialist products, and our continued passion for delivering high quality service levels, we are well-placed to meet the sustained level of demand from our customers and looking forward to another positive year in 2018.”

The airline will also start a second daily flight between London and Johannesburg providing up to 24 tonnes of cargo capacity when the Boeing 787-9 service is launched on 28 October.

A local contact centre will open in Johannesburg in April and the airline says it has seen an increase in the volume of courier business from the US and UK to South Africa driven by e-commerce, as well as regular shipments of cars.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo director of sales, Steve Buckerfield says: “Virgin has been serving the Johannesburg market for 22 years and we continue to receive outstanding customer support. 2017 was a particularly strong year for both north and southbound cargo volumes, so the addition of a second daily frequency is great news for us and our customers.”