2020 was a year of firsts for IAG Cargo, from launching the carrier’s first cargo-only flights to supporting the United Kingdom, Spain and Ireland with crucial PPE shipments throughout the pandemic. We round up some important highlights of this unforgettable year.
JANUARY & FEBRUARY: FRESH START
New year, new start. IAG Cargo also began trialling electric tugs in both London and Dublin in a bid to find further sustainable solutions within our business.
MARCH: ADAPTING TO THE PANDEMIC
On 11th March, the Covid-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
As passenger aircraft were grounded across the world, our teams responded by developing one of the most comprehensive networks of scheduled cargo-only flying on the market, ensuring IAG Cargo’s role in supporting global trade and the movement of essential supplies.
We also played a critical role in Ireland’s fight against Covid-19 – bringing much needed medical supplies and equipment from China to medical centres and hospitals across the country, commissioned by the Irish government.
We started offering our customers and governments the opportunity to charter our airlines’ aircraft, marking a first for our business. A new charter team was deployed as part of the offering, leading to a total 615 charters operating by the end of Q2 2020.
APRIL: A FEW FIRSTS
Working with Iberia, we formed a medical air corridor between Spain, China and Japan, to ensure that Spain would receive essential medical supplies.
April also saw the first time IAG Cargo would load mail into overhead passenger cabin lockers, as a means of accommodating an increase in e-commerce purchases as the world went into lockdown.
MAY: IN RECORD TIME
IAG Cargo set up an operation out of Beijing to provide Ireland’s hospitals and medical facilities with crucial PPE. Aer Lingus worked together with Ireland’s Health Service Executive to secure overfly rights and approvals from the Irish Aviation Authority in record time, along with permits and landing slots at Beijing Capital International Airport.
JUNE: SEAT REMOVAL FOR MAXIMUM CAPACITY
In June, IAG Cargo removed aircraft seats from two passenger aircraft to maximise capacity for cargo.
The first of the converted aircraft, a BA 777-200, departed London for Beijing with the seats in the main cabins completely removed. And IAG Cargo completed its 100th cargo-only flight for its London-Hong Kong route with a 777 service.
JULY: 100 CARGO-ONLY FLIGHTS + A NEW LOYALTY TIER
IAG Cargo completed the 100th cargo-only flight out of India alongside the 100th scheduled cargo-only flight between Johannesburg and London. We also launched FORWARD.PLATINUM, a new tier for our largest FORWARD.REWARDS customers, offering greater personalisation and enhanced benefits.
AUGUST: NETWORK GROWTH
From August 5th, scheduled cargo-only flights from London to Kuala Lumpur re-joined the network once again, while Islamabad returned to its three times weekly service from 13th August. Our network continues to grow.
SEPTEMBER: LEVEL TAKES FLIGHT
In September, IAG Cargo’s low-cost carrier LEVEL resumed its transatlantic Barcelona-New York service for both passengers and cargo. The route has historically seen the transit of mangoes, berries, minerals, leather products, veterinary equipment and footwear between Europe and the US.
OCTOBER: HELLO 787-10
October marked the end of an era, with BA retiring its 747 fleet and heralding the arrival of the new Boeing 787-10, which boasts greater cargo capacity and fuel efficiency. IAG Cargo also launched a direct four times-weekly route to Lahore in Pakistan, operated by a B787-800.
NOVEMBER: BESPOKE SOLUTIONS
Ahead of air cargo’s busiest period, IAG Cargo converted one of Iberia’s A330-300 aircraft to a ‘preighter’ service between Los Angeles and Madrid.
DECEMBER: 1000 CHARTERS
IAG Cargo celebrated the departure of its 1,000th charter flight since March, when it first launched a dedicated charter team in response to demand brought on by the pandemic. The service has transported medical supplies including PPE, hospital equipment, Covid tests, as well as fresh cherries, mining equipment and rescue dogs. The carrier’s most popular non-PPE route for charter flights has been between Hong Kong and São Paulo – an important route for electronics and e-commerce.
In a happy end to the year, IAG Cargo transported a much-anticipated shipment of Covid-19 vaccines on an Iberia aircraft from Brussels to Madrid. The vaccines were then flown to Tenerife and Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.