Virgin Australia has commenced its cargo operations with dedicated freighter aircraft ferrying parcels, food, documents and machinery for its major customer TNT and other clients.
The airline’s cargo business was launched in July 2015, when its eight-year contract with Toll ended and was not renewed. As a result, the selling and managing of the belly space in its passenger fleet of domestic and short-haul international aircraft was brought back in-house.
Its cargo unit was boosted with a five-year deal with TNT signed earlier in 2016 that has led to a fleet of dedicated freighter aircraft flown on behalf of Virgin by other operators and the opening of a cargo shed at Sydney Airport.
The first flights with those dedicated cargo aircraft kicked off on Monday, July 4, with VH-PDW, a Convair CV-580, operating up and down Australia’s east coast and to Adelaide on behalf of Virgin by Pionair Australia.
At the same time, a Boeing 737-300F from Airwork also started flying between Melbourne and Perth. Some overnight freighter services have also been flown by Virgin’s Airbus A330-200 fleet in the past week.
A BAe 146-200QC, VH-SIF, flown by Pionair, is due to start operating later this week, a Virgin spokesperson said on Monday, while a second BAe 146-200 was due to arrive from Europe in the next couple of months.
The Virgin spokesperson added the 737-300F would be operated until August, when it would be replaced with another Boeing 737 freighter, also to be flown by Airwork.
Virgin hoped its cargo division would bring in between $150 million and $200 million in annual revenue by 2017.
Meanwhile, Qantas’s dedicated freighter fleet of six aircraft for its new contract with Australia Post began flying on July 1. The Australian reported the aircraft, comprising two Boeing 737-300Fs, three BAe 146-300Fs and one Boeing 737-400F, have been repainted into StarTrack livery.