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Leading lights - Dominic Kennedy, Virgin Atlantic Cargo

Managing Director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo Dominic Kennedy speaks to Airline Cargo Management about his new position and what's in store for the company

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 onboard one of our flights. It’s a fantastic industry with great people. 


Its 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% to a five year high and our revenues rose 9%, which generated a lot of positivity. We’ve carried this through into the first half of 2018 with a further 10% 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. 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% 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% and 22% depending on configuration. >>


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