and vaccine consumables

on its global network of cargo- only flights since the end of 2020 and is still operating aircraſt with converted cabins, which it launched in spring of 2020. “These were initially primarily

operated to provide capacity for PPE and other urgent supplies on

transpacific specifically routes, not pharmaceuticals,

and are now used for light freight including perishables and mail on multiple international routes and for on-demand flights,” remarks Matthieu Casey, Senior Director, Cargo Global Sales & Revenue Optimization, Air Canada Cargo. Air Canada Cargo has over

20 years of experience shipping high-value, time-sensitive and temperature-sensitive products like pharmaceuticals. “In 2020, in anticipation

of capacity demand related to

vaccine distribution, we

worked closely with our freight forwarder customers specialized in handling pharmaceutical shipments and underwent an extensive operational preparedness exercise to ensure training, procedures and facilities were updated and reflected current requirements and standards for transporting vaccines, including achieving CEIV Pharma certification in July 2020,” says Casey

Remaining challenges

There remain challenges facing the air cargo industry. From an industry perspective, Samways sees one being ensuring that all stakeholders work as effectively as they can together to meet the needs of the end user. “There are a lot of players along

the supply chain that contribute to the successful movement of any shipment, much more a


shipment, and teamwork is key,” Samways says. “From our airline perspective, while we have state-of-the-art coolers and temperature-controlled facilities, our

goal is to move temperature-controlled

these items

through our facilities quickly. We have the space should we need it, but our goal is to keep these goods moving on their journey with the highest level of care possible. “ Air

Canada transporting Cargo’s cold Casey

stresses that challenges related to

chain shipments are less about “Even before the COVID-19

pandemic, Delta offered four tailored pharmaceutical shipping options.” -- Rob Walpole, Delta Cargo.

investments in infrastructure, technology, training and working in partnership with the right suppliers and supply chain partners to maintain the stringent standards required for handling cold chain shipments,” Casey says. Air Canada Cargo self-handles

its customers’ cargo at many of the carrier’s hubs both in Canada

stations and where its shipments are handled by a third party. “As a result, while our cold chain capabilities were already robust, the pandemic allowed us to prioritize and accelerate multiple enhancements that strengthen our offer,” he says. Meanwhile the industry-

wide supply/demand capacity imbalance continues.

Issue 6 2021 - FBJNA


Pallets containing 1.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine wait at American’s Chicago O’Hare (ORD) Cargo facility to be loaded onto the flight to Guatemala City (GUA). (AACargo Photo.)

adequate with

storage rapidly

technologies, temperature



airports and more about keeping up

emerging including


technology and container enhancements. “Maintaining the cold chain requires consistent

and internationally. “This provides us with control and oversight,” he says. In addition, the CEIV

certification process provided Air Canada Cargo an opportunity to undergo an exhaustive review of its cold chain capabilities, including those at its own

“While we’ve all come a

long way since the start of the pandemic finding creative ways to keep cargo moving around the world, we still see excess demand versus capacity in many markets, which is both causing pressure across our entire network and contributing to record financial performance,” Samways says. Overall, however, he’s really

encouraged by the way 2021 has started out and anticipates continued demand growth in the second half.

“Air cargo

performance has remained strong for some time, and that will likely continue, supported by

growing capacity as

international passenger flying increases following a reduction in travel restrictions,” Samways says. Walpole at Delta Cargo

concurs. For pax carriers, increased demand in passenger services is offering some relief. “International travel demand

continues to remain low and that will take time while Government restrictions are in place and borders are closed,” comments Walpole. “This continues to create a global supply chain impact which oſten has very little room for error following the Suez Canal blockage and port congestion on the West Coast.” One of the main strategies

that Delta Cargo has used in the past months is what is called “a Cargo-led approach.” This scheme looks at markets and network operations where Delta would eventually look to have passengers but uses cargo as the ‘lead product’ into the market to establish its network. “It has been a very successful approach for the company,” Walpole says. Technology is also

playing a key role. On the heels of AACargo’s iCargo implementation it completed in August 2020, the carrier

has announced a strategic partnership with – a leading e-booking platform for the cargo industry. “This partnership will extend

the benefits of our network to the platform and give customers another way to book on American – while also providing them with real time booking information and capacity and route offerings,” Samways says. “We hope for this option to be available to certain regions around the world later this summer.”

Analysts’ insight

While the pandemic may have

nearly decimated

the passenger airlines business during its height, the immediate need for goods – both medical and e-commerce-related, has resulted

in skyrocketing

volumes for air cargo carriers and subsequent high rates. CLIVE Data Services reports that the available global capacity compared to the pre- Covid market conditions of 2019 was -22%, but up 31% over June 2021. “It is abundantly clear that

airlines are micromanaging their flights because the

pressure is everywhere and, in the case of cargo- only services by passenger airlines, the capacity out there is expensive to operate,” comments Niall van de Wouw, CLIVE managing director. Overall, the consultancy expects load factors and rates to stay elevated. Gareth Sinclair of TAC Index

points to growing concerns that capacity will continue to be constrained for some time as passenger operations start to pick up, reducing available bellyhold capacity and opportunities for cargo-only services. – Karen E. Thuermer

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