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  January 2nd, 2021 | Written by


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  • Clashes with Big Ship are not deterring air carriers, with or without the menace of a global pandemic.
  • “Qatar Airways Cargo is a leading air cargo carrier with a specialized pharmaceutical offering and extensive network."

For a sense of how upside down the world is now, consider this from Bill Villalon, president of APL Logistics.

“The shortage of air freight capacity as a result of disrupted supply chains from COVID-19 has been difficult for many customers to manage. … OceanGuaranteed is uniquely positioned to deliver sustainability solutions in one product, while still ensuring expedited, on-time delivery.”

OceanGuaranteed is Scottsdale, Arizona-based APL Logistics’ service that ships freight by ocean as opposed to the air. Never mind the geographical challenges posed by the previous sentence—an inland desert company touting its deliveries by sea—you are probably more than aware that air cargo operations came into being because they can move precious shipments more quickly than their wet-bottomed competitors. 

However, clashes with Big Ship are not deterring air carriers, with or without the menace of a global pandemic.

Before anyone heard of COVID-19, United Cargo had already supported a variety of customers within the healthcare industry for more than a decade. Its TempControl, LifeGuard and QuickPak logistics solutions protect the integrity of vital shipments such as precision medicine, pharma, biologics, medical equipment and vaccines. And in April, Chicago-based United became the first U.S. carrier to lease temperature-controlled shipping containers manufactured by Germany’s DoKaSch Temperature Solutions. 

“Providing safe air cargo transport for essential shipments has been a top priority since the pandemic began,” says United Cargo President Jan Krems. “While the entire air cargo industry has had its challenges, I’m proud of how United Cargo has adapted and thrived despite a significant reduction in network capacity and supply. We remain committed to helping our customers make it through the pandemic, as well as to doing everything we can to be prepared for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution when the time comes.”

One way United Cargo has prepared is by assembling a COVID Readiness Task Team “to ensure we have the right people in place and are preparing our airports as we get ready for the industry-wide effort that comes next,” says a spokesperson.

By United Cargo’s count, it has helped transport nearly 145 million pounds of medical supplies to aid in the fight against COVID-19, using a combination of cargo-only flights and passenger flights. To date, United Cargo has operated more than 6,300 cargo-only flights and has transported more than 213 million pounds of cargo worldwide.

While United Cargo looks back fondly at 10 years in the healthcare game, Delta Cargo is celebrating the 50th anniversary of DASH, the Atlanta-based carrier’s service for same-day express shipping for small packages throughout the county—including packages filled with life-saving organs for transplant.

“Delta was one of the first airlines to offer a same-day express shipping option in the U.S. and today it is one of our most popular products and perhaps the one for which we are best known,” says Andy Kirschner, Delta’s director-Cargo Sales Americas. “Over 40 percent of domestic cargo that we transport annually is carried as DASH, and we carry everything from wedding dresses, films reels, trophies, movie props and human organs for transplant, to passports and other urgent documents.”

Among Delta Cargo’s customers is MNX Global Logistics. “At MNX, our customers rely on our precision logistics services to deliver life-saving therapies to patients and mission-critical parts to help businesses succeed,” says Bert Mesa, vice president-Global Field Operations at MNX . “When every moment matters, we need more than just a provider, we need a partner. And with Delta DASH, we have a partner that enables us to deliver on the speed, precision, efficiency and rigor that our customers demand.”

COVID-19 has put the spotlight on shipments of vaccines, something Qatar Airways Cargo prepared for in September, when the “World’s Best Airline” signed an agreement with SkyCell for Hybrid Pharma Containers.

“The logistics around pharma transportation is complex and being at the forefront of time and temperature-sensitive transportation, we understand the intricacies of a seamless cool chain,” says Guillaume Halleux, Qatar Airways’ chief officer-Cargo. “Through this agreement with SkyCell, we are glad to expand our container offering under QR Pharma and present customers with more options to transport their sensitive products. The hybrid container establishes an entirely new product offering for our clients that is both safe and sustainable for our businesses and the planet.”

“Qatar Airways Cargo is a leading air cargo carrier with a specialized pharmaceutical offering and an extensive network,” says Chiara Venuti, director of Business Development and Airline Partnerships at SkyCell. “The cooperation will meet the growing demand for hybrid containers as safe and sustainable pharma solutions for sensitive and critical drugs such as vaccines.”

In June, was the first to launch digital booking of passively cooled shipments across multiple airlines, including Etihad Cargo, AirBridgeCargo and Lufthansa Cargo were among the airlines to participate in the launch.

“The mission of is to make the air cargo markets more productive and thus more successful,” commented Oliver Neumann, founder and managing director of Berlin-based “Extending the range of commodities on the platform is an exciting next step towards fulfilling our mission. This wouldn’t have been possible without the trust of our partner airlines, who experience our performance as a key revenue stream first hand and have thus always supported our desire to innovate. The result is a uniquely simple and quick way to book passively cooled shipments.” 

As we come to grips with our brave new cool world, Puerto Rico is being propped up as a central location for air carriers toting temperature-controlled pharma. This comes courtesy of an air cargo and passenger transfer designation for the U.S. Territory by the U.S. Department of Transportation this past spring.

The measure “may make Puerto Rico the No. 1 Air Cargo Hub in the nation,” states Invest Puerto Rico, a public-private economic development partnership on the island. “New flexibilities provided by the waiver will expand the island’s crucial pharmaceutical production capacity–a space poised for swift growth as the U.S. eyes domestic drug production.”

The partnership expects the designation to benefit manufacturers, increase trade and employment and lead to long-term economic prosperity . . . while also spiking air traffic to and from Puerto Rico.

Do you know how you can tell the partnership may be on to something. Cargolux, DHL Aviation, FedEx Express and UPS Airlines already have a presence on the island, as does Amazon Air, which is now expanding its ground operations at Luis Muñoz Marín Airport.