American Airlines conducts trials to transport COVID-19 vaccine

FILE PHOTO: A member of a ground crew walks past American Airlines planes parked at the gate during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, U.S., April 5, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

(Reuters) - American Airlines began trial flights from Miami to South America in mid-November to prepare for its role in transporting the COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. carrier said on Monday.

The flights simulate the conditions required for the vaccine to stress test the thermal packaging and operational handling process that will ensure it remains stable. (

The trial 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.

The U.S. carrier said it was working with cargo, pharmaceutical and federal partners to be ready to safely and quickly transport an approved vaccine.

Typically, airlines use containers with cooling materials such as dry ice to transport pharmaceutical products, but some don’t have temperature controls, making products prone to unforeseen events such as flight delays.

United Airlines has begun moving shipments of the vaccine, developed by Pfizer Inc, on charter flights to ensure it can be quickly distributed once it is approved, Reuters reported last week, citing a source.

Reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur