“We are embarking on our own ’Destination Digital’ journey”

IAG Cargo has a strong presence in the Indian market, adding more flights and destinations. John Cheetham, Chief Commercial Officer, IAG Cargo believes North America is an important market for India exporters, and today IAG Cargo offers more transatlantic capacity than ever before, with our network continuing to grow across the world. In an interview with Apace Digital Cargo, he talks further on digitalisation, sustainability and lots more. Moving into 2023, IAG Cargo are focused on enhancing the digital offering, sustainability initiatives, and expanding our network further.  

To begin with, what is the strategy of IAG Cargo for the Indian market as the Indian skies seem competitive for the air cargo fraternity?

India has always been an important part of our network and we continue to hold a strong presence, currently operating five destinations in the region – Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Chennai. More recently, the rise of passenger travel has allowed us to further enhance our network capacity and introduce new routes. Looking at IAG Cargo’s 2022 / 2023 winter schedule between London-Heathrow and India, today it is larger than pre-pandemic. The schedule is up 8% on weekly flights (2019;104 weekly flights VS 2022;112 weekly flights) between India and the UK compared to 2019. 

North America is an important market for India exporters, and today IAG Cargo offers more transatlantic capacity than ever before, with our network continuing to grow across the world.

How is your freighter fleet size?

IAG Cargo uses the bellyhold of passenger aircraft of International Airlines Group (IAG), which consists of British Airways, Iberia, Vueling, Aer lingus and LEVEL. With 5 airlines, and over 500 aircraft it’s a model that provides IAG Cargo with great capacity and global reach. The breadth of our network allows customers to access destinations and communities where freighters do not operate. 

As a dynamic organisation, during the pandemic we quickly gained clearance to use the cabins for freight as well, supporting many customers around the world with charters and cargo-only flying. Within the first three months of launching cargo-only services between India and London-Heathrow whilst passenger travel was paused in 2020, IAG Cargo operated 100 flights – this service continued throughout the pandemic.

What is a focus segment for IAG Cargo? 

India is one of the largest exporters of generic medicines and between January-August 2022 IAG Cargo transported 21% more pharmaceuticals from India vs the same period 2021. We have made significant investment in recent years to our premium products like Constant Climate, that facilitates the movement of life-saving drugs across the world. Our hub at London Heathrow is one of the only air carrier airside facility, our hub in Dublin directly connects Dublin to the USA and Canada, and in 2019 we opened a brand-new pharmaceutical centre in Madrid dedicated to pharmaceutical products. Our Madrid pharmaceutical facility is the largest in Southern Europe and with its strategic location it played a key part in the global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccine alongside our two other GDP certified hubs in Dublin and London Heathrow. 

We understand that our customers, especially those dealing with high-value or temperature-sensitive cargo, need access to important data throughout the shipment, our product does just that, a courtesy notification every 6 hours advising them of the temperature of their cargo (when reception is available).

More recently we approved the latest product from Envirotainer, the Releye® RLP & RAP containers, which are now available for customers transporting pharmaceutical goods from India. This new container has longer battery autonomy. This means that there is no need to charge the battery during transit, unlike other temperature-controlled containers. As a result, there is no reliance on this manual intervention that would otherwise be needed.

How do you see the infrastructure and technology in terms of efficiency in the air cargo sector? 

We are embarking on our own “Destination Digital” journey which will see us partner closely with our customers to adopt digital processes to both support sustainable operations whilst offering a better customer proposition. The air cargo industry is still heavily reliant on paper, and we want to change this. Through various initiatives such as E-awb something the IAG Cargo team are supporting customers to switch to will help to remove the industry’s unsustainable reliance on paper.

Our partnerships are also instrumental in supporting driving change and this year, we worked alongside long-term partners, Kuehne + Nagel, and Bollore Logistics, to reduce supply chain emissions through the purchase of Sustainable Aviation Fuel. We’ve also been advancing our sustainability strategy in our ground operations as well as in the air with the trial of our first electric terminal vehicle operating airside at London-Heathrow, with the ambition to replace all current terminal vehicle in the near future. We have also partnered with Verpa Folie to trial their new sustainable film for wrapping cargo, this solution is 100% recyclable and biodegradable by landfill benefiting global customers.”

How do you see the role of digitalization in the air cargo sector?  

There is no doubt that digitalisation is one of the most important business trends of recent years, here at IAG Cargo as well enabling more agility, we have seen it support us improve communication with our customers, enhance their experience, with forwarders enjoying instant access to rates, route availability, and the platform to make and manage bookings in real-time. 

We want to streamline accessibility to booking IAG Cargo capacity online. As well as customers being able to book on IAGCargo.com, we have multiple access points through third party platforms, which allow customers to find us easily, and book with convenience and speed.

Data has always been closely linked with digital transformation, because of our digital-first approach we’ve been able to lead with insights, our data-driven strategies are allowing us to communicate with our customers more efficiently. From the data we receive we’ve been able to improve the support we give to our customers, whether that is regional information, targeted offers or the ability to reach new customers. Growing our shop window with third party platforms is enabling our capacity to reach wider audience particularly with SME customers.”

How does IAG Cargo foresee the future of the air cargo industry?

The last few years have brought home the importance of the air cargo industry to the global economy and communities. As the world moves on to the latest challenges air cargo will, no doubt, continue to provide solutions to enable trade, product choice and development. Moving into 2023, IAG Cargo are focused on enhancing the digital offering, sustainability initiatives, and expanding our network further.  Looking to 2023, we’re constantly looking for new ways to improve customer experience and optimise capacity using digital dimensional checks. 

Aside from our digitalisation strategy, we are also committed to supporting our customers to move their cargo more sustainably. April 2021, IAG was the first European airline group to commit to 10% of its fuel to be SAF by 2030. IAG Cargo is committed to making aviation more sustainable, and over the last year has bought over 10 million litres of SAF to reduce its customers ’supply chain emissions on a net lifecycle basis by approximately 24,400 tonnes of CO2.