Virgin Atlantic, Delta Air Lines to ‘co-locate’ U.K. cargo

A long-term agreement signed today by Virgin Atlantic Cargo and Delta Cargo to co-locate their cargo handling at 12 U.K. locations under a “one roof” handling strategy is expected to enhance service while cutting costs, according to representatives of the two carriers.

Effective June 8 this year, Delta Cargo will join Virgin Atlantic Cargo in outsourcing cargo handling at London Heathrow to dnata, one of the largest suppliers of combined air services in the world. The two carriers will also co-locate their cargo handling facilities with dnata at Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London Gatwick, and also at six other regional U.K. airports: Aberdeen, Belfast, Birmingham, East Midlands, Leeds/Bradford and Newcastle.

Gareth Joyce, president of Delta Cargo, explained that, “locating our cargo operations at Heathrow and across the U.K. under one roof in partnership with dnata will help realize greater synergies, while delivering a more seamless and efficient service to our customers.” While the two airlines have operated a codeshare since 2013, the new agreement will streamline drop-off and collection points for customers, and speed up truck turnaround times at London Heathrow.

The announcement also underscored the expected benefits of dnata’s multi-million-pound investment in new software and technology that will include advanced control point technologies to further improve handling times at all points of service. Using geo-fencing and advance information on drivers and their vehicles, the new system will make interaction with the airlines’ Heathrow cargo operations faster and more effective. The new technology is being trialed ahead of its early 2017 roll-out.

Delta Cargo is looking to capitalize on a long-standing relationship between Virgin Atlantic and dnata that dates back to the late 1980s. Virgin Atlantic is dnata’s largest cargo customer in the U.K., and handles more than 200,000 tons of cargo per year in the country, according to the American Journal of Transportation. Last year, Virgin also awarded the bulk of its U.K. domestic business to dnata.

Virgin Atlantic Cargo has already benefitted from a similar agreement in the U.S. since the start of their joint venture in 2014. The two carriers have co-located cargo handling at eight airports in North America: Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, Miami, New York (JFK and EWR), Orlando and Washington Dulles. Delta Cargo will now be able to move its cargo through Virgin Atlantic’s 200,000 square foot Cargo Point facility, located next to London Heathrow’s World Cargocentre.

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