VIRGIN Atlantic has operated its first ever cargo-only charter amidst the operational challenges brought by the COVID-19 upon the aviation industry.
The VS698 from London Heathrow for New York JFK on 22 March created history for the airline as it departed with two pilots, one cabin crew member and a hold filled with 12490 kilograms of pharmaceutical and medical supplies.
Although the emergence of COVID-19 has led to a decrease in passengers travelling, demand to transport cargo remains strong. Special exemptions from the imposed travel restrictions for pilots and cabin crew – whose health and wellbeing remains top priority – mean that cargo operations can continue, ensuring the airline can continue to support vital supply chains across the globe.
With many airlines cancelling flights, there has been a dramatic decrease in cargo space available but global trade continues, and the Virgin Atlantic cargo team continues to operate helping both regular and new customers keep their freight moving around the world.
A flight with no passengers is technically not an unusual sight, with training, positioning and maintenance sectors happening regularly amongst Virgin Atlantic’s fleet. However, a pure cargo charter flight like VS698 had never been operated before by the British network carrier.
With further cargo-only operated services scheduled in for this week, Virgin Atlantic is expected to continue its cargo offering to destinations from the US to the far east.
Every year, Virgin Atlantic transports more than 200,000 tonnes of cargo on its global network. From salmon sourced from lochs in Scotland, and pharmaceutical supplies, to supercars travelling to the US, customers who have flown with the airline before will no doubt have been sitting above all sorts of goods and products being shipped around the world.
Dominic Kennedy, managing director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo said, “Watching Virgin Atlantic’s inaugural cargo-only charter take off yesterday at London Heathrow added to a feeling of immense pride towards the herculean effort of our cargo team.
“Making the flight happen, in such short notice and in such challenging times, reaffirms the fact that we have one of the best teams in the sky supporting supply chains across the globe.”