LATAM Airlines Group said Friday it will fly COVID-19 vaccine shipments at no charge on domestic flights in Latin America, where it operates.
The offer is an extension of the airline’s Solidarity Plane program, which has acted since spring as a free aerial bridge between South America and the world, carrying more than 900 health care professionals, and transferring 400 people with urgent need of medical assistance and more than 700 organs and tissues within South America.
LATAM has domestic operations in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The company said it will support distribution of vaccines for free, based on requests from governments.
Since August, a team of more than 20 people from LATAM Cargo has been planning transport scenarios for COVID-19 vaccines, which require special temperature-control equipment and processes. LATAM Cargo has stations with pharmaceutical capabilities at 30 locations in Europe, the U.S. and Chile, and four that are waiting to be opened in China.
LATAM has a certificate of excellence for meeting pharmaceutical shipping standards from the International Air Transport Association.
Meanwhile, LATAM Airlines said it recently operated a flight for the first time to Doha, Qatar, where the shipment was transferred to interline partner Qatar Airways for transport to Shanghai. The Boeing 777-300, which originated in Brazil and stopped in Santiago, Chile, carried fruit and other perishable products. It returned with a load of electronics. LATAM said a second flight departed on Monday.
The company has been actively rebuilding its route network to accommodate importers and exporters while passenger schedules have remained limited during the coronavirus pandemic. It has also switched many idle passenger aircraft to freighter mode to increase cargo capacity.
It is peak season for the fruit harvest in Chile, and electronics are in demand for Christmas.