The airline industry is gearing up to help to deliver vaccines across the globe. This is likely to be welcome news to the cargo carriers, ports and armies at the forefront of delivery.
What are the Industry Professionals saying?
Amdas recently attended a webinar by Aviation Week Network. According to the panel of industry professionals, the air cargo industry is currently just about coping. The main issue they encountered was carrying the Pfizer vaccine. This is because it required a temperature of minus 70C. To maintain such a low temperature, dry ice is required. As a result, capacity is limited due to the necessary safeguards surrounding how much dry ice can be carried. This also makes replenishment problematic. However, the panel assured us that this should not be such an issue in the long term. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine constitutes just 10% of global volume. The remaining 90% will be comprised of vaccines that are stored at 2-8 degrees C. The panel agreed that, while sublimation rate and regulations were considered to be unlikely issues, utilisation of capacity would likely present the biggest hurdle to a global roll out.
What are the issues with capacity?
For the most part, cargo carriers are doing the donkey work. However, it seems likely that passenger aircraft will need to be recommissioned for cargo.
According to Fortune, global air traffic has seen a 61% reduction. In light of this, the challenge for passenger craft will be to get their operations back up to the levels required to support global delivery. This is because, with a 61% reduction in passenger flights, many airlines will have reduced their workforces. This might be through redundancies, reduced routes, grounded aircraft or reductions to the numbers they own. Furthermore, as Aviation Week pointed out, most airlines will need to retrieve equipment that has ended up on the other side of the world. This will require the adoption of a ‘closed loop logistics mindset’.
So far, 2,500 passenger craft have been drafted to support the cargo only side. Fortune points out that the distribution of vaccines would be much easier if fleets were flying to their usual frequency. However, with travel corridors closed in the UK and more news of the same happening across the world, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing a return to normal just yet. How this will unfurl over the next months is difficult to say. Perhaps more passenger craft will be recommissioned to cargo. However, this might pose a problem if demand for passenger travel increases.