Air Cargo Management

Virgin Atlantic Cargo’s Dominic Kennedy: “This is probably one of the most exciting times in our history”

Virgin Atlantic Cargo
photo_camera Virgin now covers 11 major destinations across North America

Dominic was promoted to managing director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo in August 2017, bringing a wealth of cargo knowledge and experience to the role having been a key member of the airline’s cargo leadership team since 2008.

In his previous post of director of commercial planning, which he assumed in September 2014, Dominic was responsible for the commercial planning of Virgin Atlantic’s cargo division, leading its commercial activities to achieve agreed targets and standards for financial and trading performance as well as service quality.

What attracted you to the aviation industry?

Growing up, I always wanted to be a pilot because I was fascinated by aircraft and travel. That’s the great thing about a career in the airline industry, it opens up a world of opportunities and new experiences.

Ultimately, I joined Virgin Atlantic’s Fleet and Network Planning team in 2005 before moving to Cargo in 2008 and was director, commercial planning before taking my current job in August last year.

My passion for aviation is as strong as ever. Obviously, I get to travel a lot and I still get the same buzz every time I step on board one of our flights. It’s a fantastic industry with great people.

Virgin Atlantic, Cargo, Dominic Kennedy
Dominic Kennedy, managing director, Virgin Atlantic Cargo

It has been a year into the job. How are you finding it?

I’m loving it! We have a great team at Virgin Atlantic Cargo and we’re seeing our business go from strength to strength, so that has made the last 12 months even more enjoyable.

Last year, our volumes were up 6 per cent to a five year high and our revenues rose 9 per cent, which generated a lot of positivity. We’ve carried this through into the first half of 2018 with a further 10 per cent increase in revenue, so it has been an exciting 12 months.

I’ve also spent a lot of this time looking at what we want to achieve in both the mid- and long-term. We want to make Virgin Atlantic Cargo easier for our customers to do business with.

To achieve this greater simplicity, we will be investing in new technology and digitisation to give our customers a self-service platform to make their experience of working with us even more efficient.

Virgin Atlantic, Cargo
Pharma bookings and revenues grow by over 50 per cent in 2018

Removing paper from the air cargo process is a big focus. We’re making progress in areas such as e-AWB but our business, and our industry is still far too paper-intensive.

The technologies are out there to change this – and also to drive other areas of warehouse automation.

Our other main priority is to leverage our partnerships with Delta Cargo and Virgin Australia to give our customers even more choice.

How is the new pharma zone at London Heathrow progressing?

It opened in October last year and is already a major success story for us. In the first six months of 2018, we’ve seen our pharma bookings and revenues grow by over 50 per cent and now we have confirmed our GDP compliance for the Pharma Zone and our global headquarters, so we’re on course for our best ever year for pharma.

Customers are making buying decisions based on risk. We knew they wanted to give us a bigger share of their pharma business but we needed to show our commitment to earn it. True to their word, we are seeing fantastic results.

We’ve got a great team who are passionate about offering the highest level of service this product demands; we’ve implemented a full quality management system to manage pharma products globally.

We’re also conducting full GDP audits and risk assessments on our ground handling suppliers in key pharma markets.

We are seeing new types like the 787-9s enter the fleet. What contribution are they making in terms of bellyhold capacity?

The 787-9 is a great aircraft for the airline and it has given us a capacity boost on many routes. What we’re even more excited about in cargo is the arrival of our new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.

We have 12 on order and they will begin joining our fleet in early 2019. This is going to give us a significant improvement in lower deck cargo capacity of between 10 per cent and 22 per cent depending on configuration.

Do you foresee acquiring used or new all freighter aircraft?

No, freighters are not on our agenda. With our growing partnerships and enhanced fleet, we are confident we can continue to provide the capacity and service levels our customers need by continuing to improve on what we do today.

Virgin Atlantic, Cargo
The 787-9 is a great aircraft for the airline

What is the significance of the international cargo agreement with Virgin Australia?

Virgin Australia is a very important partner of ours. They awarded us a long haul international cargo sales and management agreement in 2009 and this has provided a lot of benefits for both airlines and our customers.

Their services from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles all link into the Virgin Atlantic network so it extends the reach we can give to customers to and from Australia.

More recently, they have launched services from Melbourne and Sydney to Hong Kong – another destination we serve – and customers are really appreciating having more choice of services to and from Greater China.

Next year, we will celebrate 10 years of working together and I very much hope we will continue to do so long into the future.

Virgin Atlantic plans to pull out of the London – Dubai route. What is the implication for cargo?

We will be withdrawing flights between Dubai and London Heathrow from 31 March 2019 but until then it is business as usual with a daily service.

It is always disappointing when a route that is well supported by our cargo customers is no longer economically viable due to a combination of factors.

We have given our customers plenty of notice and we will be working closely with them and interline partners to find a solution to still offer deliveries to Dubai after our own flights stop.

What’s next in the pipeline at Virgin Atlantic Cargo?

This is probably one of the most exciting times in our history. Our business is growing and we have a clear plan of improvements we want to deliver for our customers.

Our JV with Delta Cargo is giving us the scale and network our customers want us to offer, and, further out, we have the prospect of being part of a single joint-venture between Air France KLM, Delta Air Lines, and Virgin Atlantic.

We are still working through the agreement but we are excited at the prospect of what the extended JV could offer our cargo customers.

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