Virgin Atlantic Cargo saw volumes reach a five-year high in 2017 and revenues rising nine per cent to £199.6 million, driven by strong growth in pharmaceutical and e-commerce shipments.
The airline carried 230.5 million kilos last year – up six per cent on 2016 – which it attributes mainly to strong westbound business to the US.
Virgin Atlantic’s new daily Heathrow-Seattle services, launched last March, performed above expectations and there were strong, double-digit gains in demand to other destinations across the US from both London and Manchester.
Daily services to India and Africa also saw strong volume gains, as did routes to the UK from these markets, as well as from China and the US, despite exchange rate pressures.
The carrier also delivered growth in support of its longstanding cargo sales and management agreement with Virgin Australia, boosted by the launch of Virgin Australia’s Melbourne-Los Angeles services in April, and the addition of new, daily Melbourne-Hong Kong flights in November.
In addition to growth in perishables and high value cargo shipments in 2017, Virgin Atlantic’s biggest gains came from the carriage of pharmaceuticals and e-commerce shipments.
Supported by the opening of its new Heathrow Pharma Zone with joint venture partner Delta for temperature-controlled life science and pharmaceutical products in October 2017, shipments of pharma was up 20 per cent year-on-year.
The airline also benefited from its high frequencies of flights to and from 11 destinations in the US, reflecting the transatlantic market’s position as the world’s biggest pharma trade lane.
Similarly, e-commerce business grew in 2017, boosted by its high service levels and quick connections to major consumer markets in the US, the Middle East, China and Australia.
Virgin Atlantic Cargo managing director, Dominic Kennedy said: “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.”