IAG Cargo’s 2021 year in review

From flying essential COVID-19 vaccines to tonnes of wine, and even a rescued SEA LIFE turtle from the Maldives, 2021 has been quite a year for IAG Cargo. Join us as we look back on some of 2021’s key movements and shipments.


As vaccine production ramped up, IAG Cargo kickstarted 2021 by delivering one million COVID-19 vaccine doses by mid-January, including 80,000 doses to the Canary Islands and the first batch of the Moderna vaccine to Dublin.

Meanwhile, as many of us continued to spend a whole lot of time on Zoom, the UK turned to beauty hacks. In one shipment alone, we transported 19,500 kilos of cosmetics into London Heathrow. While Madrid, on the other hand, were craving good coffee to rev up their 2021 – in one shipment from Bogotá, Colombia we transported 2.8 tonnes of the much-loved roasted beans.


As February arrived, our thoughts shifted to Valentine’s Day. With our loved ones at the forefront of our minds, it’s not surprising over 18 million flowers – the quintessential gift on Valentine’s Day – were transported across the network as lovers and friends celebrated the special occasion. For others, chocolate is the best way to say, ‘I love you’, which may explain the 3.2 million chocolate bars flown to South Africa that month…

In the middle of the month we signed an agreement with UNICEF, committing IAG Cargo’s support to the organisation’s COVAX facility, the global effort aimed at providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

February was also the month Germany introduced new rules requiring individuals to wear medical-grade face masks. To meet demand, we transported 1.7 million masks on a passenger aircraft converted into a freighter.


In March, we saw the impact of the global revival in vehicle manufacturing. During the first quarter alone, we chartered nearly 100 flights carrying automotive spares, alongside the usual loads carried on our regular schedules.

With Canada seeing a record number of rounds of golf being played in 2020, we also shifted 17,300 golf balls to the country in March alone.


As some countries around the world eased their lockdown policies, the hospitality industry re-awakened. We transported various products to support the restaurants, pubs, and bars across the world as they geared up for service, including 2,000 tonnes of asparagus into Europe and the UK from the US and Latin America; 11 tonnes of frozen potatoes to make French fries in South Africa; and 95,000 bottles of Italian wine into the US.

Meanwhile, we also delivered four million roses to Barcelona as the city prepared for the festival of Sant Jordi – the day where lovers traditionally exchange books and roses to celebrate the Catalonian patron saint.


When India continued to battle rising COVID cases with dwindling oxygen supplies, IAG Cargo partnered with British Airways to fund two special charters delivering 45 tonnes of aid from charities, including Oxfam, Khalsa Aid, Christian Aid and LPSUK.

May was also the month we flew some very special cargo to their new homes around the globe, from lionesses and lemurs, to otters and penguins.


While we played our part in helping the US enjoy 95,000 bottles of Italian wine, lots of whiskey, and… ballet shoes, UK supermarkets received a hefty delivery of 7,300 tonnes of mangos.

Not to be outdone by last month’s shipments of animal friends, in June we also transported a leopard and two pygmy hippos to their new homes.

We were delighted to complete our first sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) charter chain of 16 flights from Stuttgart to Atlanta. Working with our partner Kuehne+Nagel, IAG Cargo sourced 1.2 million litres of sustainable aviation fuel. The collaboration marked the first time ever that passenger-freighter charter flights were operated with net-zero carbon emissions.


As restrictions on the hospitality industry eased more in the UK, India’s delights were in demand – we delivered many favourites from samosas and Indian chutney, to nearly 11 tonnes of lime pickle.

On a cargo-only flight from Bangalore to London we uplifted 48,500kgs of cargo on a British Airways A350-1000 aircraft – a record for IAG Cargo for this aircraft from India. The record cargo-only flight comprised of a mix of products including perishables, automotive and pharmaceuticals.

Meanwhile, we also flew 100 kilos of snakes.


After the devasting earthquake that hit Haiti in August, we worked with the UK Government and UNICEF Spain to fly 25 tonnes of aid – from shelter kits to solar-powered lanterns – to help recovery efforts in the stricken country.

In August, we also delivered four million doses of vaccines to Nigeria in collaboration with UNICEF and the COVAX initiative, along with 300,000 doses to Jamaica supported by Crown Agents and donated by the UK government.

While in Canada, preparations were underway for the mid-autumn Moon Festival in September. We delivered 3,500 kilos of mooncake for those celebrating the special event. That’s a whole load of baked goods…


With September comes new tech and big brand launches as we gear up for the unofficial back-to-school month. With hi-tech and e-commerce deliveries taking a substantial slice of our capacity, it seems many of us made the most of the new products launches on the market and continued to enjoy a little online shopping.


Diwali is a busy time for us in October. Every year ahead of the celebrated festival of lights, we transport an array of traditional items to be used in the festivities. This year, we delivered a number of Ganesh and Lakshmi wax Idols along with Indian sweets, called Kaju barfi, to Canada.


As end of the year celebrations and festivities start to ramp up, November is always a very busy time for us. With November 1st marking Dia De Todos Los Santos (All Saints Day), we flew more than 12 million flowers to Spain from Colombia and Ecuador for people to celebrate the special and sacred holiday.

It was also the month IAG Cargo partnered with SEA LIFE to re-home a rescued olive ridley ­– or more commonly known Pacific ridley – turtle named April. We flew April all the way from the Maldives to London, where she was then transported to her new home at SEA LIFE Loch Lomond in Scotland.


As Christmas loomed and peoples’ thoughts turned to loved ones and friends around the globe, we transported millions of festive foods, including cherries, berries and chestnuts, and 500 tonnes of lamb into London. While the US ordered even more wine and cheese from Italy…