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Thanks to air cargo’s advancements in shipping perishables, we can now accomplish what was once impossible. Rare pharmaceuticals can be delivered from major metropolitan areas to remote corners of the world in a matter of hours, just in time to save a life.

From food and plants to pharmaceuticals and vaccines, air cargo is vital in making sure people throughout the world get the products they need, without losing quality. But in the face of changing regulations and increased volume of products (air cargo transported $6 trillion worth of goods in 2016), handling global demand has become more difficult.

The good news is that many air cargo carriers are meeting—and exceeding—those demands.

In 2016, we covered three airlines that had made advancements in the transportation of temperature-sensitive goods. Here, we highlight three other carriers that have improved cold chain capabilities.

1. Air France-KLM-Martinair Cargo

The cold chain depends first on rigorous temperature control, as the World Health Organization stresses. It also depends on speed, as any delay can increase costs greatly and put the perishables at risk.

To enhance efficiency, KLM Cargo recently unveiled a new sorting system that can process over 2,000 items per hour. What this sorting system does is ensure temperature-sensitive shipments, like vaccines, are handled as quickly and safely as possible.  

This sorting system will be utilized at the carrier’s Amsterdam Schiphol airport hub, where the carrier has already doubled storage space for containers. Deliveries will be made to over 70 destinations. As Marcel de Nooijer, EVP KLM Cargo, says, “The system is faster and smarter, allowing us to offer better service to our customers.”

2. Emirates SkyCargo

Transport systems researchers, Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue and Dr. Theo Notteboom, note that the airfreight industry has established various temperature requirements for perishables. As they explain, “Staying within this temperature range is vital to the integrity of a shipment,” because it enables optimal shelf life of the product.

With varying temperature needs, it can be difficult for cargo carriers to manage and prevent temperature deviation. To respond to this, Emirates SkyCargo has launched dedicated pharma flights out of Frankfurt and London which allow them to focus on the special requirements pharmaceuticals must meet during air shipment. The pharma flight service, which will be rolled out for other destinations, helps Emirates solve the challenges that affect the cold chain.

For instance, due to capacity constraints, there are times that products can’t be put into dry ice or cool rooms. Emirates is placing the pharma products into rechargeable temperature controlled containers that can continue to keep items cool, ensuring lack of capacity doesn’t lead to a damaged product.

3. American Airlines Cargo

Experts in the air cargo industry agree that integration of operations and a unified platform that updates in real-time can enhance control and efficiency. This is especially true for the shipment of perishables.

At its London Heathrow cargo center, American Airlines Cargo has opened a Controlled Room Temperature (CRT) facility. The goal of this facility is to enable better control over temperature-sensitive shipments.

Not only can the facility hand 16 times more skid pallets, helping American Airlines handle increased volume, it also is fully monitored and alarmed. Real-time data is provided to the team, allowing quality issues to be solved before they cause damage.

Temperature-controlled air cargo management systems continue to advance, shaping our ability to transport everything from life-saving pharmaceuticals to exotic floral arrangements. Through efficient, smart temperature systems, we are quickly eradicating what was once impossible in air cargo transport.   


Learn more about why carriers that are using advanced cool chain solutions will be well-positioned to take full advantage of this growing opportunity.

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