Virgin Atlantic Cargo has been granted a Wholesale Distribution Authorisation (WDA) for its global headquarters operations and its new Pharma Zone at Heathrow Airport, confirming the airline’s compliance with Good Distribution Practice (GDP) and its ability to maintain the quality and integrity of medicinal products for human use.

WDA was established by the UK Government’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which is recognised as a trusted and independent source of expertise throughout Europe, working closely with the European regulator, the European Medicines Agency (EMEA). The MHRA also collaborates with other international regulators, including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Virgin Atlantic Cargo’s WDA accreditation for its VHQ global headquarters follows its handling partner dnata also gaining WDA for its Cargo Point operation at Heathrow, which incorporates the Pharma Zone, shared by Virgin Atlantic and its joint venture partner, Delta Cargo.

This latest enhancement of Virgin Atlantic’s products and services for pharmaceuticals and life science shipments is expected to lead to further growth in volumes, which rose by over 20% in 2017. In January, the airline also increased the range of active containers it offers for temperature-controlled cargoes by becoming the first UK airline to approve the use of CSafe’s new RAP unit.

Alongside new facilities and equipment, Virgin Atlantic’s network connecting major international pharma markets is the other key factor boosting its share of pharma volumes. Through its JV with Delta Cargo, Virgin now offers almost a quarter of all transatlantic cargo capacity, the busiest global lane for pharma shipments. Virgin serves a total of 11 U.S. destinations, offering direct services to the UK and fast connections into Europe. Demand is also up for pharma services to India and China.

Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, said: “The standards and requirements for everyone involved in the transportation of pharmaceuticals and life science products set out clear guidelines of what is expected of airlines serving customers in this growing market. We have been listening to our customers and responding to what they want. Wholesale Distribution Authorisation (WDA) was the regulatory compliance they asked us to achieve and now we meet their requirements at both our global headquarters and Pharma Zone. We can measure our customers’ approval by the increasing pharma bookings they are giving us. We are confident 2018 will be a record year for our pharma and life science business as customers commit to airlines like Virgin which are delivering tangible benefits.”

Virgin’s Pharma Zone is a secure and segregated facility with GDP-trained staff dedicated to the handling and storage of pharma shipments. It incorporates walk-in pods for loose pharma shipments and six chambers for pallet storage, which can accommodate 24 PMCs in 2-8C or 15-25C temperature ranges, as well as multiple charging points for active containers. In addition to CSafe’s new RAP container, Virgin also offers customers the opportunity to utilise CSafe’s RKN unit and Envirotainer’s RKN t2, RAP t2, RKN e1 and RAP e2 units for temperature-controlled pharma products.

The airline’s service offering for temperature-sensitive shipments is also benefiting from the co-location of its handling operations with Delta Cargo at major gateways in the UK and U.S. Delta’s significant progress with its IATA CEIV Pharma programme has seen them achieve certification for both their global headquarters and handling facility in Atlanta. This is the first JV providing true end-to-end compliance and assurance for customers moving pharma and life science shipments in both markets.

Darren Sherlock, Manager – Products and Partnerships at Virgin Atlantic Cargo, added: “This is a further important enhancement of the pharma services we can offer to our customers and has been achieved with the fantastic support of our partners dnata and ASC Associates. We will continue to work closely with our customers to ensure that every benefit we deliver is based on what they need.”