London, Monday 10, 1999: Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will today officially open British Airways’ new £250 million World Cargocentre at Heathrow.
Representing the airline’s biggest single investment ever beyond its aircraft fleet, it is one of the largest constructions to be completed in Britain this year - 6,000 double decker buses can fit inside the building, which is 83,000 square metres.
Heathrow is now the UK’s most important port, in terms of the value of imports and exports handled with an estimated £50 billion worth of goods passing through the airport every year. The new World Cargocentre will consolidate British Airways’ role at the heart of this entrepot world trade.
The distinctive metallic building, on the south side of the airport’s runways to the west of Terminal 4, will double the airline’s existing cargo capacity at its main hub to 800,000 tonnes a year. This throughput can be increased to one million tonnes a year in the future.
An estimated £20 billion worth of freight, courier and mail passes through the business each year, including:
* 2.5 billion air mail letters and parcels handled on behalf of the Royal Mail and other leading post and courier businesses
* More than 50,000 tonnes of exotic fruit and vegetables, like mangoes, paw paw, beans and mange tout, flowers and other perishables destined for supermarket shelves all around the UK, with the air freight industry transforming the nation`s diets during the past 20 years
* tonnes of designer gear from Milan, the US and other fashion centres worldwide
* tonnes of high tech products, medicines and other urgent medical equipment
* Scores of pet dogs, cats and more exotic pets being transported around the world to accompany their owners.
After touring the new facility, meeting some of the 1,550 people who work there, the Deputy Prime Minister sampled some of the state of the art technology installed there to take the airline’s cargo division into the 21st Century - including operating a “sky fork”, a new generation of ceiling-mounted handling and lifting equipment designed for the airline.
For British Airways, the opening of the new facility signals its commitment to build a world class cargo service to match the success of its international passenger business.
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, said: “The importance of air freight to our economy is substantial and it continues to grow. Cargo handled by UK airports is currently growing at 7.5 per cent a year. This new cargo centre is a tangible investment by BA in their business and in Heathrow and I have no doubt about the contribution it will make in the future.
The goods that pass through Heathrow are mostly high value, low weight products, mostly carried in the holds of passengers aircraft. Carrying cargo in this way is an efficient means of transport as it makes the most effective use of the aircraft and of the airport infrastructure, and I was encouraged to learn that BA is working with Railtrack and BAA to examine the opportunities that rail transport can offer in transporting cargo to and from Heathrow.”
Bob Ayling, British Airways’ Chief Executive, said: “The airline industry has traditionally under-estimated the value of cargo, but that is no longer the case at British Airways. This magnificent new building, while our biggest investment in airport property, is just one element of the radical and complex change programme taking place in our freight, courier and mail business, to ensure our World Cargo team can deliver the best to its customers and to the British Airways group as a whole.”.