Virgin Atlantic is looking to make the most of an increase in demand for cargo flights. The airline plans to offer up to 60% more cargo flights in January, with up to 33 cargo-only rotations per week. The airline operated its first cargo-only charter flight in March last year.
Virgin Atlantic is adding 12 cargo-only rotations per week to its schedule as demand for cargo flights remains high. The airline already had a record-breaking year last year by operating 4,000 cargo-only flights.
While this might sound impressive, in reality, the airline only started offering cargo-only flights because of the global downturn. Revenues for cargo were up 50% while passenger revenues plummeted. The airline is planning to continue the trend into 2021 while commercial flights are slow to recover.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
Virgin Atlantic Cargo will offer additional flights on a number of routes, bringing the weekly number of cargo-only flights to 33. The airline’s network offers strong connections between London, Brussels, Chicago, Miami, Delhi, Hong Kong, Dublin, Puerto Rico, Shanghai, Mumbai, Johannesburg, and Antigua.
In addition, Virgin Atlantic Cargo offers cargo services on passenger flights to Atlanta, Barbados, Boston, New York JFK, Lagos, Islamabad, Lahore, Los Angeles, Miami, and Tel Aviv.
In a statement to Simple Flying, Virgin Atlantic Cargo managing director Dominic Kennedy said,
“Despite a decrease in passengers travelling, demand to transport cargo remains strong and we’re delighted to play our part transporting a whole range of goods across the world, keeping vital global supply chains moving. We’re thankful for the support of our customers throughout an unprecedented 2020 and want to emphasise we are once again here with a broad cargo destination portfolio and charter capability to support 2021 demand.”
Virgin Atlantic is also looking to take advantage of the potential border delays caused by Brexit complications. Currently, Virgin Atlantic offers daily flights connecting London to Brussels to offer same-day connections.
The future of cargo
As well as preparing to offer a solution to any delays caused by Brexit, Virgin Atlantic is well-placed to carry vital COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies. The airline began working with the NHS in April to fly in vital supplies. Transporting goods is a major part of passenger flights, so the travel restrictions have impacted freighting operations. However, with Virgin Atlantic Cargo pivoting to fill the cargo hole, vital supplies are still being transported worldwide.
The lack of cargo space on passenger flights means 2021 is set to be another good year for Cargo operations. Freighting company DHL had a record-breaking year last year, and cargo -operations were the survival line for many airlines, including Lufthansa. As passenger flights resume, it will likely be short-haul and regional flights that recover first. Neither is well-suited for cargo operations, meaning demand for cargo-operations will likely remain high until international flights resume.
As such, Virgin Atlantic Cargo will surely be evaluating its schedule for the next few months, and we will likely see an increase in the number of flights through spring as well. Considering all the financial trouble Virgin Atlantic has experienced this year, it’s no surprise it is focusing on cargo-operations to help see it through challenging times.