Air freight is indispensable for the fast and reliable intercontinental distribution of highly sensitive pharmaceuticals. With the impending, worldwide approvals of the Covid-19 vaccine, Lufthansa Cargo is well prepared for the global distribution that will occur in the coming months. Since the spring, a specially-assembled task force has been preparing a variety of possible transport scenarios. Some of the greatest challenges for this mission include capacity and route planning, as well as ensuring the proper cold temperatures remain consistent throughout the travel chain.
"The distribution of temperature- and time-sensitive pharmaceuticals is extremely demanding. We were one of the first airlines to specialize in the transport of medical goods and pharmaceuticals and can therefore draw on many years of experience. Thanks to the recent expansion of our ground infrastructure, we can also handle larger volumes while constantly maintaining the cold chain and transport them worldwide," explained Peter Gerber, Chairman of the Executive Board of Lufthansa Cargo. "In 2019, we transported around 100,000 tons of pharmaceuticals. We are ready to make another important contribution to overcoming the pandemic by distributing the vaccines worldwide."
While the transport of COVID-19 vaccines is immediately available with Lufthansa Cargo, in early January 2021, the company will introduce a premium service offering to its customers that was specifically developed for the transport of COVID-19 vaccines. The service – COVID-19 Temp Premium – will be bookable from early January and will provide a high level of comprehensive and personalized customer service along the travel chain, including seamless monitoring of vaccine shipments throughout the entire process and a 24/7 hotline.
As a cargo airline, Lufthansa Cargo provides its customers with space for transporting goods from airport to airport. The airline makes use of Lufthansa Cargo's worldwide network of flight connections, as well as the loading capacities of available flights of Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings. Clients consist of air freight forwarding companies. For the handling of goods at the airports, the air freight subsidiary organizes the necessary temperature-controlled ground infrastructure for its worldwide network of stations, such as the Pharma Hubs in Frankfurt and Munich or the Pharma Station in Chicago, which was newly opened this summer.
Lufthansa Cargo Pharma Hub Frankfurt
- Largest center for temperature-controlled logistics in Europe: state-of-the-art, certified
- More than 8,000 square meters / 90,000 square feet
- Pharma-Hub in Frankfurt with specially trained staff
- Constant temperature control from -20°C to +30°C (-4 °F to 86 °F)
- Special handling procedures, optimized apron time, storage in temperature controlled environments
Lufthansa Cargo Pharma hub Munich (new since summer 2020)
- Approx. 1,000 square meters / 10,000 square feet and on several levels
- Space for up to 96 pallets and loose loads in two different temperature ranges (+2 to +8 °C = 35 to 47 °F and +15 to +25 °C = 59 to 77 °F)
- Freezer up to -18 °C = 0 °F
Lufthansa Cargo Pharma Center in Chicago at O'Hare International Airport (new since summer 2020)
- 750 square meter plant / 8,000 square feet
- Multi-level room for up to 54 pallets and 102 refrigerated containers in two different temperature ranges (+2 to +8 °C = 35 to 47 °F and +15 to 25 °C = 59 to 77 °F)
- Freezer up to -18 °C = 0 °F
Even before the pandemic, Lufthansa Cargo already invested heavily in the necessary ground infrastructure, including a brand new facility in the United States – the Lufthansa Cargo Pharma Center Chicago at O’Hare International Airport – that opened in June. Furthermore, with its pharmaceutical hubs and about 300 other stations with active or passive cooling facilities worldwide, Lufthansa Cargo has one of the world's largest airline pharmaceutical networks. 30 of these stations are already CEIV Pharma-certified, including those at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Washington DC’s Dulles International Airport. As a global standard, the certification demonstrates that the facility meets strict criteria for the proper handling and storage of pharmaceutical shipments. The Lufthansa Cargo Atlanta and DC stations have dedicated pharmaceutical sections managed by highly-trained staff, a wide range of temperature-controlled storage options, as well as temperature monitoring, recording and alarm systems in place. The world aviation association developed the IATA CEIV Pharma standard, together with pharmaceutical forwarding companies and airlines, in order to harmonize quality requirements across industries. With its own high quality standards, Lufthansa Cargo was one of the first airlines worldwide to be CEIV-Pharma certified and is continuing to expand its network of certified stations worldwide.
The actual transport routes of the vaccines depend largely on the future production sites for approved vaccines and the respective recipient markets. With its current freighter fleet of 19 aircraft, Lufthansa Cargo is able to respond flexibly to shifts in demand and, if necessary, add further capacity with passenger aircraft. For the transport of pharmaceuticals, three temperature ranges (based on the ambient temperature) are available in airfreight: moderate (+15 to +25°C), cool (+2 to +8°C) and deep-frozen (-12 to -20°C). Lufthansa Cargo also has experience with transports in the ultra-frozen range (-70°C). By using special refrigerated containers and means, such as dry ice, the most diverse requirements of pharmaceutical manufacturers can be met.
It has not yet been conclusively clarified what specific requirements the Covid-19 vaccines that are about to be approved will place on packaging, transport, handling and storage, and what quantities are to be transported on which ways of transportation and over what periods of time. However, Lufthansa Cargo has been preparing for this moment for months and the company is confident in its far-reaching capabilities due to its vast worldwide network. In order to ensure that the logistics process runs smoothly, Lufthansa Cargo continues its constant dialogue with freight forwarders, pharmaceutical manufacturers, airports, ground handlers, politicians and authorities in order to prepare for this enormous medical mission that the world is on the brink of executing.
Lufthansa Cargo AG
With revenues of 2.5 billion euros and a transport performance of 8.9 billion freight ton kilometers in 2019, Lufthansa Cargo is one of the world’s leading companies in the transport of airfreight. The company currently employs around 4,500 staff worldwide. Lufthansa Cargo’s focus is on the airport-to-airport business. The route network covers some 300 destinations in over 100 countries, using both freighters and freight capacities of passenger aircraft operated by Deutsche Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings and Sun Express, as well as ground truck transportation. Most of the cargo business is handled via Frankfurt Airport. Lufthansa Cargo aligns its corporate responsibility commitment with the sustainability goals of the United Nations (UN). Lufthansa Cargo has committed itself to anchoring five selected sustainability goals in its corporate activities and to making a substantial contribution to achieving these goals by 2030. Lufthansa Cargo is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG and the specialist for the Lufthansa Group’s logistics business.