The American Airlines Cargo team carried its first shipment of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine Sunday evening. In close collaboration with pharmaceutical and cargo partners, the airline received the shipment by truck at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and loaded the shipment onto a Boeing 777-200 aircraft flying to Miami International Airport (MIA). The vaccine shipment arrived at its final destination a few hours later in a U.S. territory in the Caribbean. With this flight, American follows United Airlines as the two largest carriers transporting the priceless cargo.
“Make no mistake, our Association membership and other airline workers are on the front lines of history at this moment,” said IAMAW District 141 President, Mike Klemm. “These women and men are safely, efficiently, and quickly moving massive amounts of life-saving vaccines throughout this nation, as part of the work they do,” Klemm said. “These essential, front-line workers are truly integral to this effort,” he continued. “This is why these jobs are so critical to our nation. There is simply no other way to move as much vaccine as safely, as quickly, and to as many destinations, as you can though our nation’s air transportation system.”
“I am incredibly proud of the work that airline workers are doing to end this pandemic, and restore some sense of normalcy to the world,” Klemm said.
American Airlines began conducting trial flights in November to simulate the conditions required to transport the COVID-19 vaccine, stress testing the thermal packaging and operational handling process to ensure it remains stable in transit.
American has the largest dedicated temperature-controlled pharmaceutical shipping facility operated by an airline in the United States. From the time a shipment arrives at one of American’s facilities, it is tracked throughout its journey on the ground and from the airline’s Cargo Control Center, located within its Integrated Operations Control in Fort Worth, Texas.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, America Airlines Workers have been transporting hundreds of thousands of pounds of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical equipment, COVID-19 test kits, and pharmaceuticals to help battle the coronavirus, as well as components for Phase III COVID-19 vaccine trials.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the airline industry, dropping daily passenger counts to less than half of normal levels and has led to tens of thousands of furloughs and layoffs. The job losses and cutbacks have hit non-union airline workers particularly hard, with those who are still on the job dealing with half-wages and many lost benefits.
Since February, over 300,000 Americans have perished from COVID-19, including thousands of workers in healthcare and other essential services like transportation.
The vaccines are expected to start becoming available for most Americans in early 2021.
Sources: AA Newsroom