The two North Texas-based airlines are preparing to play a role in shipping vaccines across the globe as federal approval appears to be near.
“Southwest Airlines Cargo is working with a number of our freight forwarding and courier customers that specialize in vaccine distribution to ensure we understand their needs and how we can play a role in moving the vaccine to locations throughout the United States,” Dallas-based Southwest Airlines said in a statement.
Southwest’s Managing Director of Cargo and Charters, Wally Deveraux, said the airline may be suited to step in to aid with vaccine transport to certain areas of the country.
“We have a lot of unique destinations and we fly a little bit different with more of a point-to-point type schedule. That allows us to serve markets with a little bit larger aircraft than a regional jet,” Deveraux said. “So, with a 737, you’re serving markets that aren’t necessarily served well by other carriers or easily served for that matter. That's where Southwest can really come in and assist.”
Fort Worth-based American Airlines could play a more international role and has already had test flights from Miami to South America testing the conditions to ship COVID-19 vaccines.
“American is actively collaborating with government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, freight forwarders and others to ensure thoughtful preparation and alignment to support a global solution for vaccine distribution,” American Airlines said in a statement. “We also developed a cross-departmental task force this summer that is dedicated to readying our network for this. Should multiple vaccines be in the market at once on a short timeline for distribution, it would require all players in the industry to come together to support it.”
United Airlines was responsible for flying COVID-19 vaccines from Brussels, Belgium to Chicago.
Delta Airlines also recently approved use of a new cooler specifically for effective vaccine transport.
“This high-end, state-of-the-art climate-control solution offers pharmaceutical and life science companies a controlled and reliable 2-8°C and 15-25°C options, enabling it to be used for Pharma 1 transportation including vaccines, without the need for dry ice,” Delta said in a statement.