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Virgin Atlantic Cargo has recorded its strongest revenue performance in five years, turning over some £222m (US$290m) in 2018.

This was a 13% hike on 2017, which managing director of cargo Dominic Kennedy attributed to a succession of “best-ever” route and monthly performances.

“We achieved strong growth from June onwards, resulting in the best Q4 performance in our history, with positive contributions from across our network and partnerships,” he said.

“This result gives us the momentum we need to deliver a game-changing year for our cargo business in 2019.”

These performances resulted in a 6% upturn in volumes to 24,000 tonnes, which Mr Kennedy noted was the carrier’s highest since 2010.

High-value commodities were on the up too, particularly pharmaceutical shipments which grew some 50%.

“As an airline passionate about service, it’s a tribute to our team that, during such a busy year, we achieved our highest-ever score for customer experience,” Mr Kennedy added.

“This was helped by new service centres in Atlanta and Johannesburg, improved flown-as-booked performance, and closer engagement with our handling and joint venture partners.”

While the carrier noted record volumes on India, UK and US volumes, it pointed to the October introduction of twice-daily Heathrow-Johannesburg services as a big boost. A 15% surge in volumes was reported on the route, in turn pushing up revenue on this trade by 22%.

The carrier said: “2019 will see a series of new investments which promise more benefits for Virgin Atlantic Cargo’s customers. These include the additional capacity that will be provided by the arrival of the airline’s first four Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.”

And it added it would again be expanding its service offering, with a new route to Tel Aviv, and flights from Heathrow to Sao Paulo next year. This service, the carrier’s first into South America, will coincide with its move into a new “state-of-the-art facility at Heathrow with our partner Delta Cargo, which doubles the size of our joint cargo operation at the airport to 335,000 sq ft”, said the carrier.

“[We will also make] investments in new digital technologies to give customers a suite of self-service options to make Virgin Atlantic even easier to do business with.”

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