With lots of new ventures recently launched and others in the pipeline, Delta Cargo is firmly focused on innovation in order to add value to its business offering, as group editor Colette Doyle discovers
Atlanta-based Delta Cargo has been busy of late. New routes in Europe and Asia, the launch of a state-of-the-art export facility, plus a clever solution for pet travel have all been on the agenda recently, and are part and parcel of providing what vice-president of Delta Cargo Shawn Cole terms “thoughtful, reliable and innovative services”.
After a 10-year absence, Delta Air Lines Cargo has returned to India, with the launch of a non-stop New York JFK service to Mumbai last December. The resumed service uses a B777-200LR aircraft and will focus on the pharmaceutical and automobile sectors, as well as perishable goods; since JFK is a key domestic hub, freight can connect to numerous other gateways across the US and Latin America.
The fact that pharmaceuticals require a temperature-controlled environment represents “a big opportunity” to Cole’s mind as JFK offers this capability, meaning that the airline will actively aim to grow this area of the business.
This year will also see the launch of several new services between the US and the UK, including daytime flights from JFK-London Heathrow, Boston-Manchester and Boston-London Gatwick, as well as the Salt Lake City-London Heathrow route becoming an all-year-round service.
Meanwhile, the new export facility which was opened last October at Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic Cargo is evidence of “a great joint venture initiative”, according to Cole, who points out that when the second phase is complete within 18-24 months, the site will double cargo-handling capacity at the west London hub. In addition, it will have a dedicated pharma zone and increased capacity for temperature-controlled and perishable cargo, as well as special facilities for dangerous goods and live animal shipments.
The cargo handler’s most recent innovation involves another partnership, this time with Singapore-headquartered pet technology company CarePod, in a venture that the carrier is calling “a best-in-class travel experience for pets and their owners”. Cole hails it as a real breakthrough, noting that “there has been no innovation in this sector of the market for the past three decades, so our offering should really shake things up”.
The introduction of the pet travel carrier is said to offer many industry-leading features, including real-time updates throughout the journey and the use of industrial-strength walls insulated to protect pets against potential temperature fluctuations, plus multi-layered windows and doors with angled blinds to help create a calming environment. Following five years of research and testing, CarePod is currently available at eight US locations, after which there will be a phased roll-out across the entire network.
Cole highlights a further partnership that is panning out well for the carrier. The agreement with same-day delivery service Roadie to launch DASH Door-to-Door is an industry-first for a US passenger airline; the 24/7 service pairs TSA-approved drivers with air cargo to create the country’s fastest door-to-door service.
“It’s had a positive reception so far” according to Cole, who notes that the service currently operates from Atlanta to more than 55 cities across the US, with plans in place to extend to dozens more.
“This is a fascinating industry”, Cole comments, noting that it’s all about “connecting different points in the supply chain”. In terms of popular cargo routes, he mentions US-Asia and EMEA-US as ones that perform particularly strongly, as well as Latin America; the airline carries a broad spectrum of goods in the belly hold, including such staples as pharmaceuticals, electronics and fashion cargo.
In order to stand out from the competition Cole maintains that it’s important to “be thoughtful and listen to customers” as that is an attitude that will “see us pushing ahead and set us apart”. He homes in too on the need to “make sure we look carefully at the freight travel ribbon and see where we can add value”. The Delta Cargo executive points to the technology used to make this happen, including a cargo control service with 24/7 monitoring of freight so it can be rerouted if necessary, plus Bluetooth tracking on ULDs so their location is known at all times.
Asked what he would like to achieve during his time with the carrier, Cole says it’s about aligning the cargo division with the main Delta brand’s values “to care for passengers, stakeholders and the environment”. He also declares himself “really proud of the team – we continue to listen to each other in order to develop the best capability for ourselves internally, as well as for our customers”.