ATLANTA: October 25, 2017. Delta Air Lines is to launch its A350-900 aircraft on flights from Detroit to Tokyo-Narita on October 30 followed by services to Seoul, Beijing, Amsterdam and Shanghai by April 19, 2018.

The airline expects to be operating five aircraft by the end of this year and 10 more by the end of 2018. "The A350 on one of four daily Delta flights between Detroit and Amsterdam will be a great asset for its enhanced customer experience and the superb operating efficiencies it will bring," said Dwight James, Delta's senior vice president, Trans-Atlantic.

Delta A350-900KLM has orders for seven similar aircraft with the first due by 2019: "Amsterdam is our largest European hub and we're delighted that Delta customers and those of our joint venture partner, KLM, will be able to enjoy an all-new Delta in-flight experience between Europe and the United States," James added.

Delta partner Virgin Atlantic has ordered eight A350-1000 aircraft for delivery beginning in 2018 while Air France has 21 A350-900 units on order - suggesting the four carriers that are contemplating a new expanded business relationship will share the same flagship long-haul metal by 2020.

The start of widebody service to Amsterdam next year will be good news for the Delta Air Lines Virgin Atlantic cargo partnership that will be five years old in December and has just celebrated the opening of a new dedicated pharma facility at London Heathrow.

With up to 40 flights a day between the UK and U.S., including as many as 23 a day out of LHR, the two airlines provide approximately 24 percent of the total cargo capacity on the world's largest pharma trade lane.

"This is a segment that will see sustained growth," said Delta vice president Cargo Shawn Cole. "America is the largest single market at the moment so the Trans-Atlantic is a key pharma lane."

The new 4,000 sq.ft. 'Pharma Zone' at UK handling partner dnata's Heathrow facility includes two walk-in pods maintaining 2-8°C (COL) and 15-25°C (CRT) temperature ranges for loose pharma shipments; a 24-pallet temperature-controlled storage system split into six separate chambers with a 2-8°C or 15-25°C range; and 10 charging points for Active cargo containers.

Dominic Kennedy, Virgin Atlantic Cargo managing director added: "Our pharma tonnage grew by 20 percent in the first half of 2017 and we expect this to increase as we continue to invest in, and develop, facilities like our new Pharma Zone as well as Good Distribution Practice processes and training across our network."