Vaccine airlift delivers shot in the arm for airlines

At the American Airlines' cold storage facility at Philadelphia International Airport, workers line up giant refrigerated containers that will be used to receive and transfer the coronavirus vaccine once it's approved for use.

To prepare for its role in transporting vaccines -- the airline began trial flights in mid-November.

The test flights come as airlines scramble to prepare ultra-cold shipping and storage facilities to transport COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, whose doses require deep freezing and are likely to be among the first to be distributed.

Roger Samways, American's vice president of commercial cargo says the containers run on batteries so while it's in transit, it's able to regulate its temperature.

"So what we are looking at here is an active container. This is designed to maintain a temperature between two and eight degrees celsius throughout the shipment's journey. It's basically a giant fridge, think of it that way."

American is one of many airlines battered by the COVID-19 pandemic preparing to play key roles in the mass vaccine rollout, which promises to unlock an immediate boost for the sector as people shunned travel during the health crisis.

In line for major roles are freight specialists and airlines with large cargo arms, such as Germany’s Lufthansa and Air France-KLM.

In cold-storage warehouses at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, KLM workers are gearing up for a surge in COVID-19 vaccine cargos next year.

The preparations come as Britain begins its vaccine program this week, becoming the first country to roll out the Pfizer, BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Video Transcript

REPORTER: At the American Airlines' cold storage facility at Philadelphia International Airport, workers line up giant refrigerated containers that will be used to receive and transfer the coronavirus vaccine once it's approved for use. To prepare for its role in transporting vaccines, the airline began trial flights in mid-November.

The test flights come as airlines scramble to prepare ultra-cold shipping and storage facilities to transport COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. These doses require deep freezing, and are likely to be among the first to be distributed.

ROGER SAMWAYS: So what we're looking at here is an active container.

REPORTER: Roger Samways, American's vice president of commercial cargo, says the containers run on batteries so while it's in transit, it's able to regulate its temperature.

ROGER SAMWAYS: This is designed to maintain a temperature between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius throughout the shipment's journey. It's basically a dry fridge. Think of it that way.

REPORTER: American is one of many airlines battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, preparing to play key roles in the mass vaccine rollout, which promises to unlock an immediate boost for the sector as people shun travel during the health crisis. In line for major roles are freight specialists and airlines with large cargo arms, such as Germany's Lufthansa and Air France KLM.

In cold storage warehouses at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, KLM workers are gearing up for a surge in COVID-19 vaccine cargos next year. The preparations come as Britain begins its vaccine program this week, becoming the first country to roll out the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.