Covid-19: Impact on airfreight and temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals

Covid-19: Impact on airfreight and temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals

Covid-19 has pushed the world into chaos. As the numbers of new cases are surging worldwide, governments have switched into emergency mode and are tirelessly working to contain the spread of the novel SARS-Cov-2 virus. Non-essential infrastructure is shut down, citizens are under curfew, and most governments in the western world have closed their borders and halted international travels. The flow of goods is free from these restrictions, but additional border procedures and a lack of personal have had a direct impact on flight plans, airfreight rates and workflows for specific goods such as temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals.

Airfreight is essential in the fight against Covid-19

The IATA has estimated that over 185.000 flights have been canceled since the beginning of January. With this, important air cargo capacity has disappeared that is essential for the fight against Covid-19 by delivering sensitive pharmaceutical, medical-equipment and PME into affected areas.[1]

Currently, airlines are trying to fulfill the daily cargo needs by leveraging a mix of charter machines and freight planes, or, in some cases, even started to fill the passenger cabin with goods.[2] Flight plans are rewritten on a daily basis, often surprising the own employees as planes need to be filled, but goods do not always arrive in time. Additionally, the transition to remote working solutions is often accompanied by miscommunication and slowed reaction times.

A challenge for temperature-controlled shipments

This is a specific challenge for temperature-controlled shipments. Usually, every shipment is evaluated based on several risk factors, and transport routes and packaging are tailored to the specific needs, not leaving much room for deviations. But the current situation demands another approach—flexibility and adaptability are paramount.

Passive packaging is a widely available solution that adds an additional layer of security to environmental-temperature shipments, and the lack of dependency on a third-party supplier also eases the process of transport lane development and enables quicker decision-making.

One of our latest challenges was a shipment of 30 pallets with temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals from Germany to Iran/Teheran. The ground route was out of questions due to border closures, passenger flights were already heavily reduced, and flight plans where changing constantly. There was no flight from FRA, and other airports refused to handle shipments into Iran. After hours of phone calls we got lucky—some off the chart passenger flights, operated by Qatar Airways, were leaving from Austria/VIE to Qatar/DOH, and from there, a freighter flight to IKA was available. We shipped all the pallets from Germany to VIE and wrapped them with Carr’IS, our uniquely developed thermal-foil, which allows 8 pallets per PMC and reduced the total number of loading positions in the aircraft from six to four—a huge benefit with limited cargo space during these times.

The shipment successfully arrived in Teheran, without any temperature deviations and resulted in a net cost reduction of 50%, compared to the same volume shipped in containers.

Learn more about our packaging solution Carr’IS, or get in contact to see how we can help to transport your pharmaceuticals into the rest of the world.


[1] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/transportation/airlines-/-aviation/virus-flight-shutdowns-have-hit-cargo-capacity-iata/articleshow/74666234.cms?from=mdr
[2] https://www.aircargonews.net/airlines/airlines-fill-passenger-seats-with-cargo-to-meet-demand/

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