• ITVI.USA
    15,285.200
    -0.340
    0%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.779
    0.003
    0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.420
    -0.030
    -0.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,255.990
    -0.630
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    -0.240
    -6.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.950
    -0.020
    -0.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.440
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.310
    0.060
    1.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.150
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.950
    -0.100
    -2.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    1.000
    0.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,285.200
    -0.340
    0%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.779
    0.003
    0.1%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.420
    -0.030
    -0.1%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,255.990
    -0.630
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    -0.240
    -6.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.950
    -0.020
    -0.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.440
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.310
    0.060
    1.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.150
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.950
    -0.100
    -2.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    1.000
    0.8%
Air CargoAmerican ShipperNews

Delta Air Lines moves Pfizer vaccine on passenger flights (with video)

Air Canada conducts rehearsals to prepare for COVID vaccine shipments, notches 4,000th all-cargo flight

Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL) said it has delivered two shipments of Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine, joining American Airlines (NASDQ: AAL) and United Airlines in supporting distribution of the initial wave of doses to the American public.

Delta said it transported the shipments from Detroit to Atlanta and San Francisco on regularly scheduled passenger flights. The airline declined to provide further details.

The shipment likely was a pass through from FedEx Express (NYSE: FDX) or UPS (NYSE: UPS), which often outsources freight to ground and air transportation partners to supplement capacity in their integrated networks. The two express carriers are the exclusive transportation providers for Pfizer’s (NYSE: PFE) COVID vaccine rollout.

On Monday, American Airlines completed a COVID vaccine delivery from Chicago to a U.S. territory in the Caribbean, most likely Puerto Rico. 

United Airlines (NASDQ: UAL ) was involved on the front end, ferrying vaccine from Pfizer’s plant in Belgium to Chicago so there would be enough doses for the initial release that began on Sunday.

The major U.S. carriers with international networks have extensive experience handling pharmaceutical products, but stepped up preparations this year for COVID vaccines. All three established vaccine task forces to plan for the unique logistics requirements of moving sensitive vaccines at subfreezing temperatures, and even conducted mock shipments to test their systems. They each have 24/7 pharmaceutical control towers that provide centralized monitoring and customer reporting on the inside temperature and location of every frozen box. Shipments also get white-glove handling, with first-on/first-off service to minimize exposure to the elements. 

(Source: Delta Air Lines)

The COVID shipments traveled on passenger planes even though Delta, like many counterparts, is now flying all-cargo aircraft while passenger demand remains at an ebb during the coronavirus pandemic. Delta says it has operated more than 1,800 cargo-only flights carrying personal protective equipment, mail, home office supplies, food and other merchandise.

4,000 and counting

Meanwhile, Air Canada (TO: AC) said its 4,000th passenger-freighter flight since mid-March landed Wednesday in Lima, Peru.

The Boeing 777 jet departed Toronto with an assortment of freight from around the world including pharmaceuticals from Delhi and Hyderabad, India, as well as Brussels; medical equipment from Istanbul and Frankfurt, Germany; water purifying equipment from Philadelphia; and vehicle parts from Shanghai, Air Canada Cargo spokeswoman Johanne Cadorette said.

The return flight will carry mangoes bound for Frankfurt; asparagus for Madrid, London and Paris; turmeric and facemasks to Toronto; textiles to Edmonton, Canada, and Hong Kong; and ceramic tiles to Tel Aviv, Israel. Perishables will be loaded in the cabin.

“Cargo-only flights are successful when there is a demand both ways,” said Rene Rojas, the Latin America general manager for cargo sales and services. “We currently operate about 14 flights per week out of South America, from Bogota, Sao Paolo and Quito, and Lima. The converted [seats temporarily removed] A330 and 777-300 aircraft have been ideal for perishables from this region, which typically continue to Asia and Europe and Canada.” 

Air Canada expects to play a key role in COVID vaccine distribution after re-engineering their business model to prioritize freight. The airline will transport vaccine shipments for international freight forwarders, governments or humanitarian organizations on scheduled or charter flights and is currently conducting operational readiness exercises to ensure training, procedures and facilities are updated and meet the latest pharmaceutical industry requirements, Wednesday’s statement said.

FedEx Express and UPS are delivering the Pfizer vaccine in Canada, and FedEx Canada won a contract from the Canadian government to distribute non-Pfizer vaccines in the country.

In July, the International Air Transport Association certified Air Canada for meeting the highest standards of pharmaceutical logistics. 

Air Canada recently launched plans to eventually convert some older Boeing 767 passenger aircraft to pure freighters and operate a hybrid fleet. 

Click here for more FreightWaves and American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch. / Contact: ekulisch@freightwaves.com

RELATED NEWS:

American Airlines transports its first COVID vaccine shipment (with video)

Big 3 US airlines gear up to transport COVID-19 vaccines

Air Canada finalizes decision to convert aircraft to freighters

FedEx, UPS trucks depart with first Pfizer COVID vaccines

Eric Kulisch, Air Cargo Editor

Eric is the Air Cargo Market Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at ekulisch@freightwaves.com

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