IN APRIL, Virgin Atlantic has successfully partnered with the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS, operating nine cargo-only flights from Shanghai to London Heathrow, bringing 150 tonnes of medical equipment, supplies and PPE, transported in 12,000 boxes, carrying over 4.2m individual items

Virgin Atlantic will now increase these operations to daily flights to and from China through May-July with the airline expected to bring over 1,500 tonnes of essential PPE into the UK 

These flights have been facilitated by The British Embassy in China who are working with the Department of Health and Social Care to procure medical equipment from China and deliver it to NHS hospitals all over the UK and by the Civil Aviation Authority who gave special dispensation for the 26-hour round trips.

Virgin Atlantic is set to deliver over 43m items of personal protective equipment (PPE) in to the UK onboard special cargo-only flights which have been chartered by the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS throughout May, June and July.

The airline was the first British airline to resume flights to China on 3 April following special dispensation from the CAA and assistance from the British Embassy in China. Since then, Virgin Atlantic has operated nine 26-hour round trips between London Heathrow and Shanghai. The flights use both the cargo hold as well as passenger seats and overhead lockers to carry on average 1,400 boxes of essential equipment.


The flights are manned by seven pilots and four cabin crew who rotate duties and rest time. Each flight contains on average 16 tonnes of essential items needed to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK.

Since the first charter on 3 April, which was supported by Virgin Unite and Virgin Group, over 150 tonnes of medical supplies and PPE have been transported, including 66 ventilators, over 2m face masks, 600,000 face shields and visors, 1m disposable gloves, 38,000 items for eye protection, 125,000 protective coveralls and isolation gowns and over 25,000 battery operated or manual ventilators.

Dominic Kennedy, managing director, Virgin Atlantic Cargo, said, “We are so incredibly grateful for all the work our healthcare professionals are doing during this challenging time and we’re pleased we can play our part by bringing crucial medical supplies and PPE in to the UK for the NHS teams working on the front line.

“Despite a decrease in passengers travelling, demand to transport cargo remains strong, and our teams are working hard keeping global supply chains running and transporting essential supplies around the world.”