Issue 6 2021 - FBJNA

///AIR CARGO PHARMA Chicago O’Hare International (ORD)

Air Cargo buckles up for the long haul while shipping COVID supplies

By Karen E. Thuermer

Air cargo customers continue to feel the impact of what the Economist dubs

the ‘long

goodbye’ to Covid. It certainly feels that way for air carriers that continue to rush COVID-19- related supplies and vaccines to those in need. In mid-July Antonov Airlines transported medical supplies at short notice from Germany to Namibia on its AN-225 “Mriya” -- the world’s largest aircraſt. The aircraſt had only recently returned to commercial operation. “Right at the start of the

pandemic, we began moving personal protective equipment (PPE), pharmaceuticals, and other temperature-sensitive life-science products,” reports

Roger Samways, Vice President Commercial for AACargo. “We launched our cargo-only operation in mid-March of 2020, and as that operation grew so did our capacity to carry more pharm-related cargo with our ExpediteTC product and cold- chain solution.” In December 2020, AACargo

carried its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from Chicago to Miami and then on to the Caribbean and continues to do so across its network. Recently, it supported the White House initiative to provide vaccines across the globe by moving 4.5 million vaccines from Chicago to Guatemala City. While AACargo has not

converted any of its aircraſt to freighters, it continues to operate a cargo-only schedule based on customer demand. “We have operated over 9,400

flights up to this point,” Samways says. With scheduled passenger

service ramping up, these flights have reduced in scale. However, AACargo executives do expect to see continuing cargo-only flights on some key markets in the coming months” Such efforts have not been

without challenges. At the height of COVID-19 outbreaks, every player in the air cargo supply chain faced multiple constraints -- the biggest being COVID-19 illness itself. Delta Air Lines had to close its cargo facility at ORD for nine days in December and

not accept, deliver, or transfer any shipments. It did the same at ORD for two days in late June. Both times the airport was experiencing ground crew shortages to handle cargo. Many ORD workers had been furloughed because of passenger flight stoppages. (As a note, Delta’s main hub is Atlanta.) Delta continues to ship

COVID-19 vaccines within the US and Internationally in the belly of Delta aircraſt. “The entire journey is monitored in Delta’s unique Vaccine Watch Tower that enables full end- to-end visibility for all vaccine shipments,” reports Rob Walpole, vice president, Delta Cargo. With large warehouses and

cooler facilities in Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York-JFK and

Seattle, plus pharma facilities at 75 other domestic airports and a network of 49 certified pharma airports across the globe, Delta has the infrastructure to support COVID-19 vaccine shipments. With 24/7 centralized

monitoring and customer reporting, the Tower works closely with Flight Operations to ensure the safe and secure transportation of the vaccines at the required temperature “This has been critical to our

success,” he says. In addition,

in March

2020, Delta Cargo launched a worldwide Cargo


operation that works with Delta’s established logistics partners. “Delta dispatched idled aircraſt on cargo-only flights to transport millions of pounds of supplies

quickly and safely,” Walpole explains. Delta has operated over 2,600 such cargo charter flights.

Of note, Delta holds the

distinction of being the first US passenger airline

to receive

IATA’s Center of Excellence for Independent Validators Pharma Logistics Certification (CEIV) at its Atlanta hub and headquarters. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Delta offered

four tailored

pharmaceutical shipping options which meet specific temperature requirements for vaccines ensuring integrity through the entire journey,” Walpole says. Air Canada Cargo has been

transportin g v ac c i ne s

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