Virgin Australia has launched its non-stop flight between Melbourne and Hong Kong.
As part of its long-haul international sales contract with Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic Cargo is in charge of selling the capacity on the route.
“This is certainly welcomed new and additional capacity for customers in both Australia and Hong Kong as it gives then another choice when they need to move their cargo,” says John Lloyd, managing director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo. “We will obviously be working closely with our customers to give them to support they need and to ensure we attract the best types of business for Virgin Australia Cargo.”
The new flight is operated five times a week with an Airbus A330-200, which is capable of carrying approximately 15 tonnes of cargo in its belly.
“When we started to look at the route as part of the evaluation process, we obviously expected to fill the cargo space southbound quite easily because Hong Kong and the mainland are such strong production centres,” Lloyd says. “We also knew some of the more traditional types of shipments were being boosted further by the growth of e-commerce.”
That meant that, initially, the northbound leg was expected to present more of a challenge.
“However, we were really encouraged by the level of demand we could see ex Melbourne and so we are expecting a positive load factor in this direction too,” says Lloyd. “Much of the cargo we are carrying already comes from the buoyant Australian produce market, including meat, fish and packaged food products as well as milk powder.”
Virgin Atlantic’s own daily Boeing 787-9 flight between London Heathrow and Hong Kong is doing well too, and offers additional connectivity to and from the Virgin Australia network.
“Hong Kong is a very busy cargo route for us to and from the UK,” Lloyd says. “Our volumes to Hong Kong from London have grown 1.5% in the first six months of this year and we’ve seen a 2% growth inbound to the UK. However, for customers that want to connect to or from Hong Kong over Melbourne to other parts of our network, then we can provide that option and it is certainly something we will continue to explore if the business is good for all parties.”
According to John Borghetti, chief executive of Virgin Australia, the airline is also planning to launch flights to Hong Kong from Brisbane and Sydney, depending on whether it can secure slots in Hong Kong.
“We would certainly welcome the opportunity to grow Virgin Australia’s long-haul cargo business on whichever routes they choose,” says Lloyd. “Having previously had our own Virgin Atlantic flights ex Sydney, we know the cargo market very well. It certainly offers good potential but it is also subject to a lot of other capacity and competition. As for Brisbane, we would welcome the opportunity to work with customers there to develop a viable cargo service.”
Virgin Atlantic has been responsible for all cargo revenues on Virgin Australia’s long-haul international flights since 2009, including its flights connecting Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney with Los Angeles.
By Jeffrey Lee
Asia Cargo News | Hong Kong