Virgin Atlantic Cargo has recommenced seasonal winter service from its London Heathrow Airport hub to Cape Town International Airport. Airbus A340-300 flights, which are performed daily, offer 17 tonnes of cargo capacity and address heightened demand for freight transportation during the winter months, according to a press release.
Virgin Atlantic already operates daily passenger and cargo flights between Johannesburg and London on a year-round basis and has offered seasonal freight service to Cape Town since December 1999. Key exports out of Cape Town include general cargo, fish and fresh fruits, such as berries, grapes and stone fruit. Virgin Atlantic Cargo often flies the loads to prime U.S. export destinations, including New York, Chicago and Miami, according to the press release.
Africa, in particular, is a hot market for the UK-based carrier. Virgin Atlantic Cargo netted double-digit gains in the African market during fiscal-year 2011-2012, despite seeing sluggish traffic in the Asia-Pacific. Overall, however, the carrier posted significant growth during the fiscal year, with revenues surging 7-percent, year-over-year, to £239.6 million. Virgin Atlantic Cargo officials attributed this increase to the carrier’s responsiveness to market demand, including seasonal freight transportation to Cape Town.
“Cape Town is a very strong route for us throughput the peak winter season,” Virgin Atlantic Cargo’s Nick Jones said in a statement. “Currently, as in so many other markets, volumes are slightly down year-on-year, but we are confident of another good performance both to and from Cape Town following the withdrawal of other airline capacity.”
Offering the service on a seasonal basis also makes sense from a business perspective, Jones maintains. “We are a well-established winter season carrier from Cape Town and the service levels we offer mean we are successful in retaining our customers’ loyalty on a year-round basis,” he added.
Cape Town isn’t the only market Virgin Atlantic is eying for growth. The UK-based carrier recommenced daily passenger and cargo service to Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in late October after a three-year hiatus.