December 2019

How BA helps Santa Claus deliver Christmas

Many of us will be busy ordering last-minute gifts and writing Christmas cards, but who’s taking care of the ‘delivered’ part? John Chisholm is part of the team at IAG Cargo that plays a crucial role in getting festive post and all the essential Christmas gifts delivered on time. We caught up with him as the team gears up to their busiest season of the year

What do you do?

We’re the cargo arm of International Airlines Group, and a sister business to British Airways. We use the group’s airlines to transport a huge range of items all over the world, everything from fresh fruit and flowers to life-saving drugs and endangered animals (pictured below). I’m part of a team that looks after the international airmail shipments using around 600 flights a week to 70 destinations. So far this year we’ve carried enough bags and parcels to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool 120 times over!

Is Christmas your busiest time?

Absolutely. While the team is always busy, it’s all hands on deck now to make sure we deliver all the festive post and packages on time. The rush starts in mid-November with Thanksgiving and Black Friday and it gets gradually more hectic right up until Christmas. It’s only going to get busier as more and more people do their Christmas shopping online, with our airmail volumes expected to double or even triple over the Christmas period.

Why do you think airmail is so popular?

Christmas is often a case of shop till you drop, but what if the clothes or trending kids toy you are hunting for isn’t sold in your country, or even in your continent? Well, that’s where the global boom of e-commerce comes in. Buying that sold-out kids toy from a seller in the US or purchasing a special garment from a small retailer in Italy has become second nature for consumers, and most of those purchases fly with carriers like us and much of it travels as airmail.

What are some of your biggest shipments around Christmas?

The festive season also brings some staple Christmas stocking fillers for the cargo side of our business, such as Scotch whisky flying from Glasgow to North America or thousands of chocolate bars carried in special climate-controlled crates from Brussels to the USA, for those of us with a sweeter tooth. Of course, perfume is always a favourite, with large quantities shipped across the Atlantic.

inset 3

A lion is for life, not for Christmas: British Airways and IAG Cargo have a long history of helping with the conservation of endangered animals

What about Christmas cards?

There’s no doubt email and social media have reduced the volume of letters and Christmas cards we send, but these days airmail is much more than letters and cards. The huge growth of e-commerce has meant that airlines such as BA fly gifts around the world, ready to be delivered by the various international postal services in time for Christmas.

Why is good service important?

We don’t want to let anyone down, particularly at Christmas. We work very closely with our customers to try to predict when the busiest days will be, so that we can make sure we have enough space on the aircraft to carry the airmail. Events such as Black Friday create peaks in demand that we can anticipate, but sometimes there are other factors such as bad weather, which can be harder to predict. When snow and ice affect the airport, our teams work hard to ensure the airmail continues to fly.

What are some of the more bizarre items you have delivered for Christmas?

You can imagine that the list of weird and wonderful things sent between family and friends at Christmas is endless. We’ve had everything from a canoe to Harry Potter wands, but without doubt our most valuable cargo is the military mail we move around the world for troops based in some of the most remote locations. With families often thousands of miles apart, we take our role in delivering this mail incredibly seriously.

Did you know you can earn Avios at more than 800 retailers by doing your Christmas shopping online via the British Airways Avios eStore? Click here to find out more

This article has been tagged BA, Travel Tips