Virgin Atlantic Operates Its First Ever Cargo Flight

Virgin Atlantic is keeping some aircraft in the skies in order to keep the global supply chain moving. The move follows a number of other airlines as the global aviation coronacrisis continues to decimate the industry. The flight, on Saturday, was the airline’s first-ever cargo flight.

Virgin Atlantic, Airbus A340, Retirement
Virgin Atlantic operated a Boeing 787-9 to New York. This was the airline’s first-ever cargo flight. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Most people recognize aircraft as flying metal tubes that move passengers from A to B. However, below decks, they aren’t just carrying passenger’s baggage. They are also a vital part of the global supply chain moving everything from mail to precious goods across the globe. If these routes are disrupted, it could have a huge impact on supplies of many day to day products.

What about cargo aircraft?

Of course, there are a number of cargo aircraft dotted around the world shuttling freight day in and day out. However, while they are dedicated to carrying cargo, this is also supplemented by spare space in the luggage holds of aircraft such as the A380.

If passenger aircraft stopped operating, it would have a noticeable effect on global supply chains. As such, it is clearly in everybody’s interest that these aircraft remain in the skies moving freight around the world in the absence of paying passengers. It’s slightly bizarre seeing as under a month ago airlines were being criticized for operating flights with barely any passengers.

Virgin Atlantic Operates Its First Ever Cargo Flight
Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have the luxury of a dedicated cargo fleet, unlike some other carriers. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Virgin’s cargo flights

Virgin Atlantic has been particularly hard hit by the coronacrisis. As it only operates long-haul routes, it can’t fall back on a short-haul network. As a result of government travel bans, tied with a decrease in passenger demand, the airline only has 12 aircraft still regularly flying.

One of these, a Boeing 787-9 registered as G-VSPY, recently operated a cargo flight between London and New York. The aircraft departed from London Heathrow at 11:48, slightly behind its scheduled departure time of 11:25.

Virgin Atlantic Operates Its First Ever Cargo Flight
Virgin’s first ever cargo flight saw the Boeing 787 carry medical and pharmaceutical supplies from London to New York. Photo:

The Boeing 787-9 then flew across the Atlantic carrying a precious cargo of pharmaceutical and medical products. Following its transatlantic crossing, the aircraft touched down in New York at John F Kenedy Airport. The flight arrived at 15:29, 20 minutes after it’s scheduled arrival. Thankfully for Virgin, there were no passengers to complain about, or even notice, the delay.

Virgin Atlantic isn’t the only airline operating cargo flights as a result of the coronacrisis. In fact, Lufthansa has kept its full cargo fleet in the skies, and it is looking to operate passenger aircraft as cargo flights.

Additionally, at the weekend American Airlines operated its first all-cargo flight in almost 40 years to Frankfurt. Meanwhile, China Eastern flew medical supplies in the passenger cabin of one of its aircraft.

What do you think about using passenger planes for cargo? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!