The pharmaceutical companies across the world are trying effortlessly to finalize the COVID-19 vaccine whereas airlines are preparing to ship them. The big airlines from various parts of the world are readying their aircraft for safe and reliable distribution of vaccines.

The COVID-19 vaccine transportation by air is challenging because it requires facilities like cold storage, cargo planes, and other delicate precautions. Airlines are preparing to equip their cargo facilities with proper features in time for efficient delivery of the vaccine.

The temperature conditions and other prerequisites required for the shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine are not finalized yet however, the International Air Transport Agency (IATA) has urged airlines to prepare well within this time to ensure the proper distribution of vaccine around the world.

What Airlines are doing to transport the COVID-19 vaccine?

korean air cargo aviatech channel

The big airlines like Korean Air, United Cargo, Russian AirBridgeCargo, and others are readying their aircraft and cargo facilities for the safe and efficient transport of the vaccine. Korean Air has introduced a ‘vaccine transport taskforce’ to ship the vaccine once the pharmaceuticals finalize and release the vaccine.

United Cargo has already leased temperature-controlled shipping containers built with advanced technological innovations. The Russian Airline AirBridgeCargo conducted a trail cargo flight to ensure its preparation in transporting vaccines.

Mostly, airlines are focusing closely on cold storage facilities, essential equipment, and security measures. IATA and other concerned aviation regulatory bodies are supporting airlines with the introduction of guidelines and regulations.

What are airports preparing for?

Airports around the world are preparing for safe movement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines by forming an effective task force. The preparations include a cold temperature facility for vaccine storage, cargo facilities, skilled manpower, technology-equipped delivery vehicle, and so on.

frankfurt airport aviatech channel

Amsterdam Schipol Airport has introduced its own task force that is working deliberately on handling the COVID-19 vaccine. Likewise, Frankfurt Airport is readying its cargo facilities including 12,000 square meters of a temperature-controlled storage facility and almost 20 temperature-controlled transport vehicles.

Why preparation for shipment is necessary?

Once the pharmaceutical companies finalize the COVID-19 vaccines, the most complex task will be to deliver and distribute it globally. Most of the aircraft are grounded due to the pandemic and will take some time to return back to service. It will eventually slow down the distribution of vaccines.

The main requirement for the transportation of vaccines is the temperature which must be kept somewhere between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. So, preparation of cold storage facility is crucial as it is also claimed the vaccine might have to be stored at a temperature as low as -70 degrees.

Without proper preparation, the transportation and distribution of the vaccine by air will be almost impossible.

Why transporting the COVID-19 vaccine by air is challenging?

The cargo airlines preparing for transportation of COVID-19 vaccines must work relentlessly in managing logistics. It is said the most challenging hurdle the airlines will face is the logistical task of transporting the vaccines.

IATA has already informed the transportation of COVID-19 vaccines across the globe will require almost 8000 Boeing 747 cargo aircraft. The association instructed various governments to initiate necessary preparation and planning as global pharmaceutical companies are racing to complete the trials of their vaccine for certification.

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO, said in a statement the Covid-19 vaccines shipment will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry.

Boeing 747 suitable for COVID-19 Vaccine transportation


B747 is cited as the most feasible aircraft for shipping medical cargos because the new Boeing 747-8F (‘F’ for Freighter) already features climate-controlled cargo holds which is vital for airlifting COVID-19 vaccines. There are three compartments in the 747-8F with different temperature settings ranging from 4 degrees Celsius to 29 Degrees Celsius.

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Suman Karki
Suman Karki is the founder of the AviaTech Channel blog and YouTube Channel. He is a passionate aviation enthusiast and holds experience working as a Ground Operations Officer for Swissport International. He is currently serving as a Flight Data Feeder for FlightAware (a US-based company for Flight Tracking). Besides, he has worked as an aviation content editor for various aviation media.


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