American Airlines Cargo (Dallas) has become the latest air carrier to offer enhanced cold-chain capabilities for pharmaceutical shipments with the launch of the ExpediteTC temperature-controlled service.
The service establishes specialized handling and monitoring of drug consignments throughout AA Cargo’s worldwide network. For customers who choose the option, the carrier handles the sourcing and logistics of Envirotainer RKN, RAP, and CLD containers.
“ExpediteTC provides the same 100% flown-as-booked guarantee that we offer with our Expeditefs express freight service, but tailored for the temperature-controlled environment,” says Joe Reedy, vice president of sales and marketing, AA Cargo.
“For managing these shipments, we have put procedures and training in place across our network, and have addressed the technology needed to make sure we have visibility and control in place through an unbroken cold chain,” Reedy says.
Reedy says the carrier worked closely with Envirotainer on development of procedures and training and is pursuing certification in the supplier’s Qualified Envirotainer Provider program.
“We have established a program where we take responsibility for leasing of the containers. Some of our customers are very pleased that we are offering this option,” he adds.
Customers choose from a menu to order containers and prescribe their requirements for container management and temperature reporting. The carrier implemented special web-based tools for tracking and monitoring the shipments in its Expeditefs service to support the new program. Reedy says several thousand employees were trained in detailed procedures for executing customers’ temperature-monitoring parameters and requirements such as re-icing and battery replacement.
ExpediteTC containers have the highest boarding priority for cargo consignments in the holds of the carrier’s 767 and 777 wide-body passenger aircraft. The airline’s wide-body cargo belly space provides capacity equivalent to more than 15 dedicated cargo aircraft, with daily scheduled service worldwide.
“We have elevated the internal visibility of ExpediteTC shipments so the people at our centralized operations control group in Dallas immediately know what shipments have been assigned, what is actually moving, and where it is at all times. (Personnel at network receiving points) know what shipments to expect, which procedures must be followed for these shipments upon arrival, and they will provide the documentation required,” he says.
Containers are fixed with unique “TC blue” labels to ensure they will be clearly identified such as by warehouse handlers.
After processes and training were completed this year, AA Cargo ran a pilot in 10 cities worldwide, with specific customers “to make sure our procedures and training were spot on, and to ensure that we have a service offering we know we can execute on--and one in which our customers can have full confidence,” Reedy says.
Airlines are in various stages in establishing programs for managing temperature-controlled shipments and executing SOPs in accordance with pharma customers’ needs. Though regulatory guidance in this area has largely been lacking, the International Air Transport Association has stepped ahead of the curve by establishing the industry’s first regulations for handling temperature-sensitive drug product.
Chapter 17 of IATA’s Perishable Commodity Regulations covering pharma shipments took effect in July. Its provisions address airline SOP requirements, establishment by the airlines of quality management systems and provide a label design for designating time and temperature-sensitive containers.
On a separate but just as pressing issue, Reedy says that AA Cargo is helping customers and forwarders navigate the challenges imposed by the mandate for 100% screening of cargo on passenger aircraft, and it is collaborating with the Transportation Security Administration as screening alternatives are put into place. This requires industry-specific solutions that provide both a secure supply chain, as well as optimal protection for products shipped, he says.
Originally published in the September 8, 2009 issue of PMP News's ePackage Newsletter.