IAG Cargo resumes Tokyo services

How Airmail performs during peak periods like Christmas

Airmail Product Executive Graham Pavitt uncovers the processes behind peak winter periods – from Thanksgiving to Christmas – and how the team handled booming volumes during COVID.

How long have you been working in Airmail?

Executive Graham Pavitt

I started at British Airways working on check-in in 2007, and in 2012 I moved over to IAG Cargo to the operational side of Airmail until 2018. I then moved into the Product team, which in 2021 became part of a new Customer Experience group. 

What are some of the busiest times of the year for Airmail? What sort of processes do you implement to manage larger volumes that arrive?

Mail demand is fairly constant, it is always running in the background; and essentially forms a really good cargo baseload. We don’t get too many peaks and troughs, apart from at Christmas when it really ramps up. It used to be that people would post their Christmas cards to overseas relatives from October, but those days are long gone, and we now get large volumes of parcels rather than letters but in a much more compressed period of time because of events like Black Friday and Singles Day in China.

In December on the peak days, we can see volumes double! We have various teams that facilitate the peak period, from the Customer Experience side we begin speaking to our customers about Christmas in late summer to discuss their forecasts for peak volumes. The Operational teams will also be looking for steer on how much resource they’ll need for the expected volumes. At LHR in recent years we have operated a night shift during peak periods, so we’re running 24/7 from around Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve when the volumes start to drop off.

How does Christmas compare to other times of the year?

Christmas mail is what we pull out all the stops for – it’s the big event that gets everyone fired-up in the team. The build-up to holiday season is a busy time in most people’s calendars, and especially in the world of air cargo; and every year during this period, we support hundreds of customers. We get through it every year by working closely with our teams across the network – they’re very experienced, and they understand our customers’ needs at this time of year.

What has the impact of COVID been on Airmail given the rise of e-commerce?

COVID changed the buying habits of people worldwide and forced them to buy more online which resulted in an increase in Airmail volumes. When everything was shutting down, our airmail operation was still very busy. In the summer of 2020, our Airmail performance was the best it’s ever been because we were able to maintain such a good network. To maximise the capacity on our aircraft we loaded thousands of mail bags in the empty passenger cabin overhead lockers and where there used to be drinks trollies, there were mail bags!

Do you anticipate this trend to continue?

Postal volumes will continue to be strong as people around the world continue to enjoy shopping online or turn increasingly to online shopping. Also, as we slowly emerge from COVID, more capacity is being created in the market which is of great benefit to so many of our customers.

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