Super Air Jet, Maskapai Baru Bentukan Bos Lion Air Rusdi Kirana?

Super Air Jet, maskapai baru dengan konsep Super Cost.
Super Air Jet, maskapai baru dengan konsep Super Cost. (Foto: istimewa)

Jakarta, – Indonesia memiliki maskapai swasta baru, yakni Super Air Jet. Operator penerbangan super cost tersebut merupakan maskapai swasta baru kategori layanan pengangkutan penumpang berjadwal harian dari Indonesia. Banyak yang bertanya-tanya, apakah maskapai ini dimiliki oleh pendiri Lion Air, Rusdi Kirana?

Apalagi, pada akhir 2020 lalu, sempat beredar kabar bahwa Rusdi Kirana, sedang membentuk maskapai baru dengan nama Super Air Jet. Namun saat dikonfirmasi, Corporate Communications Strategic Lion Air, Danang Mandala Prihantoro, belum memberikan respons terkait kebenaran kabar itu.

Adapun dalam rilisnya, Direktur Utama Super Air Jet, Ari Azhari mengatakan, Super Air Jet sepenuhnya dimiliki atas penyertaan modal orang lokal atau dalam negeri.

Super Air Jet didirikan pada Maret 2021 dan telah memiliki kode penerbangan “IU” dari IATA (Asosiasi Pengangkutan Udara Internasional) dan “SJV” dari ICAO (Organisasi Penerbangan Sipil Internasional).

“Saat ini, Super Air Jet tengah mempersiapkan fase bersiap untuk lepas landas melalui berbagai tahapan dan prosedur yang dibutuhkan berdasarkan ketentuan-ketentuan dalam rangka mempersiapkan penerbangan perdana yang dijadwalkan dalam waktu dekat,” kata Ari dalam keterangan resmi, Senin (3/5/2021).

Dia menambahkan, Super Air Jet didirikan oleh praktisi yang telah memiliki pengalaman dalam mengelola dan menjalankan operasional penerbangan serta didukung sumber daya manusia (SDM) memenuhi standar kualifikasi sehingga mampu dan menguasai bidang tugas sesuai profesinya.

“Super Air Jet telah melakukan standarisasi pelatihan bagi manajemen, seluruh awak pesawat, karyawan agar semakin meningkatkan keamanan dan pelayanan kepada para penumpang mendatang,” jelas Ari.


Why The MD-11 Was More Successful As A Cargo Aircraft

The trijet McDonnell Douglas MD-11 took its maiden flight a little over 31 years ago. However, the aircraft is only active with four airlines these days – all of them cargo operators. Despite once being flown by passenger airlines around the world such as Finnair, KLM, Japan Airlines, and VARIG, the jet no longer takes on a passenger role. So why was the MD-11 more successful as a cargo aircraft?

The MD-11 was never that popular

The MD-11 program was officially launched at the end of 1986. Its release was met with orders from 12 customers for a total of 52 units, according to the Los Angeles Times. In total, however, just 200 would end up being built during a production period that would last just over 10 years.

Its slightly smaller predecessor, the DC-10, at least notched nearly 450 deliveries, while even the relatively unpopular Airbus A340 was able to achieve 375 deliveries over its nine years of production.

However, data from indicates that about 107 MD-11s are listed as active. What’s more, global shipping company UPS announced last year it was acquiring more of the type. For an aircraft that ended production two decades ago, that’s quite impressive.

Efficiency doesn’t matter

While the aircraft’s three engines make it less efficient and more fuel-hungry, this is a much smaller concern for cargo operators. That’s because cargo aircraft tend to fly less frequently than passenger aircraft do, meaning that differences in efficiency don’t accumulate and compound in the same way as aircraft in passenger service. This is why you’ll see cargo airlines operate older Boeing 747s, 767s, 757s, Airbus A300s, and of course, MD-11s.

But fuel efficiency (or lack thereof) is just one thing to consider. The other big factor is maintenance. In general, cargo airlines can pursue older jets because their aircraft will tend to fly less frequently for longer distances. This equates to fewer pressurization cycles and lowers some maintenance requirements.

So we’ve explained some of the general factors that make some very old jets useful for freight service. What is it about the MD-11 specifically that has made it successful as a cargo jet?

High capacity, low acquisition cost

Perhaps the two biggest reasons that the MD-11 is doing well as a cargo jet (especially in 2020 and 2021) is its low-cost of acquisition combined with its high capacity.

As CAPA noted last April, “extending the leases on its elderly MD-11Fs would be a lower-cost way for Lufthansa Cargo to maintain freighter capacity than replacing them with more modern aircraft.”

When compared to a 777F, the MD-11 would only be able to carry 81% of the load capacity (534 vs. 653 cubic meters). However, the latter would also end up being cheaper and more readily available when compared to the newer 777F.

Although more efficient in the long run, converting a passenger 777 into a cargo version would take time and ultimately cost more than an MD-11. That makes the latter a more attractive option for the time being. This is especially true right now when belly hold capacity is low with passenger flights down significantly. Freight companies have a limited window of time to capitalize on the demand for cargo aircraft, and the old MD-11 helps them achieve this.

FedEX MD-11
FedEx has 59 MD-11s in its fleet at the moment. These have an average age of 27.2 years. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying


Singapore urges national airline to be first to vaccinate all staff

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore on Monday urged workers at its national airline to help make it the world’s first carrier with all staff vaccinated against COVID-19, with Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Phong Choon also encouraging employees to receive shots.
Vaccinating Singapore’s 37,000 frontline aviation and maritime staff is seen as key to reopening borders of the island-state, which is preparing to host events such as the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting and the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security summit in a few months’ time.
Singapore Airlines (SIA), in which state investor Temasek is the biggest shareholder, lacks a domestic market to cushion it against the coronavirus border closures which have shattered the aviation industry globally. It said last year it had cut 4,300 jobs, or around 20% of its staff.
“SIA (Singapore Airlines) can be the first vaccinated international airline of the world. Try to get that done,” Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told aviation workers at a vaccination drive at the airport on Monday.
More than 5,200 SIA employees have signed up to be vaccinated since staff started being inoculated last week, according to a memo sent to staff by CEO Goh on Monday.
An SIA spokesman said that represented about 50% of those eligible for the vaccine, which is being offered for free to residents by the government on a voluntary basis.
“Vaccinations are widely expected to be the game-changer in facilitating the opening of borders once again,” Goh said.
“This will also be an important differentiator in the airline industry…I strongly urge everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Unlike other mass vaccination programmes in the United States and Britain, Singapore is administering the jabs having largely contained the disease locally.
The plans have stirred rare hesitancy among some due to the low risk of infection and concern about any possible side effects from rapidly developed vaccines.


Indonesia certifies N219 regional turboprop

An N219 test aircraft in 2017

State-owned Indonesian Aerospace (IAe), also known as Dirgantara Indonesia, has received certification for its N219 commuter aircraft. A type certificate was officially issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on 18 December, the transport ministry said in a statement on 28 December. 

The ministry plans to order the small regional turboprop for flight calibration purposes and for providing air transport services to remote regions, among others. It states: “The Minister of Transportation hopes that this achievement will motivate Dirgantara Indonesia to continue to innovate, because technical improvements are still needed in the next generation of aircraft so that they can compete with foreign-made aircraft and have high [commercial value].” The same statement indicates that the aircraft has been undergoing certification since February 2014 and the three-year validity on the certification period was extended twice, on 8 February 2017 and 11 February 2020. 

According to the ministry, each aircraft is fitted with two Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PT6A engines and can carry up to 19 passengers. Following the type certification, IAe has plans for the N219 to enter the commercialisation phase in 2021, it states in a 28 December evening update posted on its official Twitter account. English-language media Jakarta Globe reported on 11 December that the aircraft type completed its final test flight that day. According to the report, Indonesia’s minister for research and technology Bambang Brodjonegoro said the final test flight would clear the way for a commercial aircraft licence for the N219 to fly commercial routes in the country. 

Cirium fleets data shows that IAe has two prototypes. PK-XDT (MSN 001) was rolled out in November 2015 and launched its first flight in August 2017. PK-XDP (MSN 002) was rolled out in September 2018 and its first flight was in December that year. The local government of the semi-autonomous Aceh province most recently showed interest in the programme, placing in December 2019 an LOI to order four examples. 

Domestic airline Aviastar Mandiri has by far shown the greatest support for the programme, placing in October 2018 an LOI for 20 orders, adding to an April 2015 LOI for 20 orders and 10 options. Other LOIs – for eight orders by national private charterer Air Born and 10 orders and options for five by for Jakarta-based Trigana Air – also date back to April 2015. Defunct airlines Merpati and Nusantara Buana Air had lapsed LOIs to order 20 examples each, placed in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Nusantara also had options for another 10.


Maskapai Lion Air Digugat Pailit

Pesawat Lion Air Boeing 737-800NG.
Pesawat Lion Air Boeing 737-800NG.(Dokumentasi Rahmad Dwi Putra)

JAKARTA, – Seorang warga bernama Budi Santoso menggugat pailit PT Lion Mentari Airlines atau Lion Air di Pengadilan Negeri (PN) Jakarta Pusat pada 22 Oktober 2020 lalu terkait masalah utang.  Dikutip dari Sistem Informasi Penelusuran Perkara (SIPP), Sabtu (24/10/2020), perkara tersebut diajukan dengan nomor 343/Pdt.Sus- PKPU/2020/PN Niaga Jkt.Pst. Penggugat meminta pengadilan menetapkan Penundaan Kewajiban Pembayaran Utang (PKPU) sementara terhadap Termohon PKPU PT Lion Mentari Airline paling lama 45 hari terhitung sejak putusan a quo diucapkan.

“Mengabulkan Permohonan Penundaan Kewajiban Pembayaran Utang (PKPU) yang diajukan oleh Pemohon PKPU terhadap termohon PKPU dan menyatakan termohon PKPU berada dalam Penundaan Kewajiban Pembayaran Utang,” bunyi petitum yang diajukan Budi Santoso. Pemohon juga meminta pengadilan menunjuk dan mengangkat hakim pengawas dari hakim PN Jakarta Pusat untuk mengawasi proses PKPU terhadap termohon.

Dalam permohonannya itu, Budi Santoso juga menunjuk dan mengangkat Ronald Antony Sirait dari kantor pengacara Sirait, Sitorus, & Associates dan Monang Christmanto Sagala yang berkantor di Hotma Sitompul & Associates sebagai tim pengurus. “Untuk bertindak sebagai tim pengurus untuk mengurus harta termohon PKPU dalam hal termohon PKPU dinyatakan dalam PKPU Sementara dan/atau mengangkat sebagai kurator dalam hal termohon PKPU dinyatakan pailit,” bunyi petikan permohonan perkara. Terakhir, Budi juga memohon agar seluruh biaya perkara dibebankan kepada pihak maskapai tersebut. Sedangkan status perkara dinyatakan dalam penetapan majelis hakim.

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Penulis : Muhammad Idris
Editor : Muhammad Idris

Berlaku Besok, Pemerintah Hapus Airport Tax di 13 Bandara

Calon penumpang di bandara berjalan menuju pesawat terbang komersil. (Foto ilustrasi)
Calon penumpang di bandara berjalan menuju pesawat terbang komersil. (Foto ilustrasi)

VIVA – Pemerintah menghapus biaya Pelayanan Jasa Penumpang Pesawat Udara (PJP2U) atau seringkali dikenal sebagai Passenger Service Charge (PSC) di 13 bandara yang ditentukan. Pembebasan Airport Tax itu diberikan kepada para penumpang yang berangkat dalam upaya mendorong kebangkitan industri penerbangan dan pariwisata.

“Setiap penumpang tidak dibebani biaya PSC, karena akan dikeluarkan dari komponen biaya tiket, dan biaya PSC-nya akan ditagihkan oleh operator bandara kepada Pemerintah,” kata Direktur Jenderal Perhubungan Udara Kementerian Perhubungan Novie Riyanto dalam jumpa pers virtual di Jakarta, Kamis.

Stimulus PJP2U ini akan diberlakukan bagi calon penumpang yang membeli tiket mulai dari tanggal 23 Oktober 2020 jam 00.01 WIB hingga 31 Desember 2020 jam 23.59 WIB. “Dan tiket yang dibeli untuk penerbangan sebelum jam 00.01 tanggal 1 Januari 2021,” katanya.

Hal tersebut disampaikan usai Penandatanganan Kesepakatan Bersama Pemberian Stimulus Penerbangan Tarif Pelayanan Jasa Penumpang Pesawat Udara dan Pemberian Stimulus Pelayanan Jasa Kalibrasi Fasilitas Penerbangan, yang antara lain dihadiri oleh Dirut PT Angkasa Pura I (Persero) Faik Fahmi, Dirut PT Angkasda Pura II (Persero) Muhammad Awaluddin, serta Ketua Umum Asosiasi Perusahaan Penerbangan Nasional Indonesia (INACA) Denon Prawiraatmadja.

Dikatakan Novie, pandemi COVID-19 menjadi mimpi buruk bagi industri penerbangan yang berdampak pada anjloknya arus penumpang dari dan ke berbagai daerah, sehingga pemerintah melalui Kementerian Perhubungan perlu memberikan insentif atau stimulus penerbangan.

Harapan dari stimulus Tarif PJP2U ini, katanya, akan memberikan keringanan bagi para penumpang untuk bepergian menggunakan jasa transportasi udara yang akhirnya akan membangkitkan pertumbuhan industri lainnya seperti pariwisata dan UMKM.

Stimulus berupa penyediaan biaya kalibrasi fasilitas navigasi penerbangan dan alat bantu pendaratan pesawat yang menjadi kewajiban operator bandara baik Angkasa Pura I, Angkasa Pura II, Bandara Hang Nadim Batam dan Bandara Komodo-Labuan Bajo ditanggung oleh Pemerintah. Sehingga, dapat meringankan beban biaya operasional operator bandara akibat pandemi COVID-19.

Dikatakan, stimulus tarif PJP2U atau PSC akan berlaku di 13 bandara udara yaitu Bandar Udara Internasional Soekarno-Hatta, Tangerang (CGK), Hang Nadim, Batam (BTH), Kuala Namu, Deliserdang (KNO), I Gusti Ngurah Rai, Denpasar (DPS), Yogyakarta Internasional, Kulon Progo (YIA), Halim Perdanakusuma, Jakarta (HLP), Internasional Lombok, Praya (LOP), Jenderal Ahmad Yani, Semarang (SRG), Sam Ratulangi, Manado (MDC), Komodo, Labuan Bajo (LBJ), Silangit (DTB), Blimbingsari, Banyuwangi (BWX), Adi Sucipto, Yogjakarta (JOG).

Stimulus PJP2U ini tentunya adalah berita baik bagi masyarakat dan industri penerbangan, diharapkan dengan stimulus ini masyarakat akan mendapatkan keringan biaya perjalanan menggunakan maskapai dengan berbagai tujuan, yang akhirnya akan memberikan dampak yang signifikan terhadap pertumbuhan ekonomi di daerah, seperti industri pariwisata, sektor UMKM dan juga industri lainnya.

Tentu saja di tengah pandemi ini diharapkan masyarakat pengguna jasa transportasi udara tetap mengutamakan protocol Kesehatan dengan tetap menerapkan 3 M yaitu menggunakan masker, mencuci tangan dan juga menjaga jarak.

Kemenhub berharap bagi operator penerbangan maupun operator bandar udara dengan adanya stimulus PJP2U menjadi berita baik, dengan harapan peningkatan pengguna jasa transportasi udara, namun di sisi lain para pemangku kepentingan penerbangan tetap diwajibkan menaati SE Dirjen Nomor 13 Tahun 2020. (Ant)


AirAsia X Berhenti Beroperasi di Indonesia, Ada Apa?

Foto Pesawat Airbus A330-900 yang dipesan AirAsia X(dok AirAsia X, Airbus)

JAKARTA, – Maskapai AirAsia X berencana menutup operasionalnya di Indonesia. Langkah tersebut dilakukan agar dapat bertahan di tengah pandemi Covid-19. Sebagaimana diketahui, maskapai yang merupakan bagian dari AirAsia Group itu belum dapat beroperasi sejak Maret lalu. Deputy Chairman Air Asia X Lim Kian Onn mengatakan, penutupan operasional juga merupakan bagian dari restrukturisasi yang tengah dilakukan maskapai guna menghapus utang sebesar 63,5 miliar ringgit atau setara Rp 222 triliun (asumsi kurs Rp 3.500 per ringgit).

Lim mengaku kesulitan untuk mendapatkan persetujuan dari para investor dan kreditur. Pasalnya, mereka merasa kecewa dan meminta meminta persyaratan yang lebih baik, termasuk ekuitas gratis untuk utang yang dihapuskan. Namun, Lim menambahkan, hal itu tidak mungkin dipenuhi oleh maskapai penerbangan.  Meskipun begitu, Lim memastikan bahwa pihaknya akan menemukan jalan tengah guna memajukan bisnis maskapai.

“Tidak ada yang bisa mendapatkan keuntungan dari ditutupnya usaha kami,” ujarnya dikutip dari The New Straits Times, Senin (19/10/2020). Sebagai informasi, AirAsia X merupakan maskapai yang difokuskan untuk melayani penerbangan jarak jauh, dengan waktu terbang lebih dari 4 jam. CEO AirAsia Group Tony Fernandes pun mengakui, penerbangan jarak jauh akan memakan waktu pulih lebih lama ketimbang jarak dekat. “Business travel, penerbangan antarbenua, first class travel, akan membutuhkan waktu lama untuk bangkit,” ucap Fernandes.

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Penulis : Rully R. Ramli
Editor : Sakina Rakhma Diah Setiawan

Kiat Maskapai Bertahan Saat Pandemi: Thai Airways Jualan Gorengan, AirAsia Bisnis Akikah

Gerai penjualan patong-go di gedung THAI Catering, Bangkok.
Gerai penjualan patong-go di gedung THAI Catering, Bangkok.(FACEBOOK THAI CATERING)

JAKARTA, – Penyebaran pandemi virus corona ( Covid-19) membuat performa industri maskapai babak belur. Jumlah penumpang anjlok seiiring dengan pembatasan aktivitas di berbagai negara. Tak mau tinggal diam menanti ancaman kebangkrutan, perusahaan maskapai penerbangan terpaksa merambah bisnis lain agar bisa tetap bertahan. Salah satu kiatnya yakni memanfaatkan anak usaha atau divisi bisnis katering untuk meraup pendapatan tambahan. Sebagaimana diketahui, industri kuliner memang relatif kebal terhadap pandemi Covid-19. Belanja masyarakat yang masih tinggi terhadap konsumsi makanan jadi tolok ukurnya. Berikut contoh dua maskapai penerbangan yang terjun ke bisnis kuliner.

1. AirAsia buka bisnis daging akikah

Maskapai penerbangan swasta terbesar Malaysia ini baru saja mengumumkan langkah bisnis dengan terjun ke perdagangan daging akikah. Populasi muslim di Negeri Jiran yang besar, membuat prospek bisnis daging kambing untuk aqiqah sangat potensial. Selain itu, AirAsia juga fokus menggarap pasar umat muslim di luar negeri yang jadi wilayah operasional armada pesawat AirAsia seperti Timur Tengah, Bangladesh, Thailand, dan India. Permintaan daging akikah selalu tinggi dan tak mengenal musim. Air Asia sendiri meluncurkan platform penjualan online bernama Ikhlas yang bisa diakses di laman Bisnis daging akikah ini dijalankan anak perusahaannya, Ikhlas Com Travel Sdn Bhd yang berkantor pusat di Kuala Lumpur Sentral, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Harga kambing yang ditawarkan bervariasi yakni antara RM 499 atau sekitar Rp 1,77 juta (kurs Rp 3.500) dan paling mahal sebesar RM 799 atau sekitar Rp 2,83 juta. “Sebagai bagian dari ekspansi bisnis digital grup AirAsia, Ikhlas, lini bisnis yang melayani platform gaya hidup Muslim hari ini meluncurkan layanan terbarunya, aqiqah,” tulis Air Asia di laman resminya seperti dikutip pada Senin (12/10/2020).

2. Thai Airways jual gorengan

Thai Airways adalah satu contoh maskapai yang terbilang sukses menggeluti bisnis kuliner di luar katering penerbangan di saat pandemi Covid-19. Tak tanggung-tanggung, maskapai flag carrier ini bahkan mengandalkan jualan gorengan.

Gorengan yang dijual Thai Airways cukup populer bagi masyarakat Thailand, khususnya di Bangkok. Perusahaan ini memanfaatkan aset kateringnya untuk memproduksi gorengan yang diberi nama Patong-go tersebut.

Untuk penjualannya, selain menyewa tempat di berbagai lokasi strategis, Thai Airways juga memanfaatkan aset-aset propertinya seperti kantor di berbagai sudut kota untuk lokasi berjualan. Setiap orang, orang-orang rela mengantre untuk membeli Patong-go sejak dibuka mulai pagi hari. Dikutip dari Bangkok Post, setiap kotak dijual seharga 50 baht (Rp 23.600) yang berisi tiga gorengan dan sebungkus saus celup yang terbuat dari ubi ungu dan telur custard. Beberapa lokasi penjualannya antara lain toko roti Puff & Pie di pasar Or Tor Kor, di kantor pusatnya di distrik Chatuchak, gedung Rak Khun Tao Fa, gedung Thai Catering di distrik Don Muang, serta kantor cabang Thai Airways di Silom. Thai Airways tak hanya menjual gorengan, lini bisnis kateringnya juga dimanfaatkan untuk menjual roti. Perusahaan juga menyulap restoran menjadi kabin pesawat kelas satu. Untuk membangun suasana, restoran itu dilengkapi dengan kursi yang nyaman dan awak kabin yang perhatian.

Thai Airways restoran pop up di Bangkok, Thailand.
Thai Airways restoran pop up di Bangkok, Thailand. (Dok. AFP)

Artikel ini telah tayang di dengan judul “Kiat Maskapai Bertahan Saat Pandemi: Thai Airways Jualan Gorengan, AirAsia Bisnis Akikah”, Klik untuk baca:
Penulis : Muhammad Idris
Editor : Muhammad Idris

Tuesday’s Market Minute: Southwest Asks Union Employees For Pay Cuts

Southwest Airlines Co (NYSE: LUV) is asking its employees to agree to pay cuts for the first time through the end of next year. This notion is specific to union employees, and the airline has said is the trade-off to avoiding furloughs and future job cuts. Non-union salaries will already be cut by at least 10% until the beginning of 2022. And the Southwest CEO Gary Kelly is also already foregoing his salary entirely through 2021, with several senior-level executives taking a 20% pay cut.

While it is not news that the airlines as a whole have been one of the hardest-hit sectors throughout the pandemic, it remains unclear when they will see any degree of relief. Airline travel demand remains down 70% compared to a year ago despite receiving federal aid of $25 billion dollars earlier this year. Under the terms of the government package, all airlines were banned from laying off or furloughing any employees until October 1.

As October quickly crept up and federal aid restrictions lifted, the airlines began taking necessary measures to remain afloat. American Airlines Group Inc (NASDAQ: AAL) laid off roughly 19,000 employees and United Airlines laid off about 13,000 employees within the last week.

While another round of stimulus has been in talks, a formal package remains unapproved. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even asked the U.S. airline executives on Monday to hold off on further job cuts, promising that relief is on the way. The Southwest Airlines’ CEO has confirmed the company can avoid job losses if these terms are reached within the unions by the start of 2021, also noting “I feel like we have a moral obligation to them.”

Southwest stock remains down about 28% this year, outperforming its airline peers who have on average lost about 50% of their value in the last 8 months.


Covid-19 Vaccine Delivery Will Present Tough Challenge to Cargo Airlines

Covid-19 Vaccine Delivery Will Present Tough Challenge to Cargo Airlines

  • Inoculations for the new coronavirus will require thousands of extra flights, taxing stretched airlines
  • UPS is combining multiple refrigerators at its airport hubs to store vaccines in transit.

The pandemic has revealed shortcomings in global supply chains and forced business to make logistics a bigger strategic priority. Successfully delivering Covid-19 vaccines will test manufacturers and shippers on what lessons have been learned.
“If 50 million doses were available today, could we distribute them?” asked Glyn Hughes, head of cargo at the International Air Transport Association, a trade group. “The answer is almost certainly ‘No’, for every jurisdiction.”
The air-cargo industry is making plans for delivering as many as 20 billion Covid-19 vaccination doses, even before regulators have approved any of the multiple treatments under development. Shippers say they are having to plan without knowing exactly how many vaccine doses they’ll have to ship, where they will be manufactured and how cold they have to be kept.
Pharmaceutical companies and shippers say they expect the bulk of vaccine supplies to be transported by air. Cargo-airline executives are working on a delivery schedule that assumes initial batches become available during the traditional peak season for shipping that runs from fall through early February.
Carriers such as FedEx Corp. FDX 0.44% and the DHL arm of Deutsche Post AG DPSGY 0.22% have started preparations such as introducing new temperature-monitoring systems to track future vaccine shipments. United Parcel Service Inc. UPS -0.41% and Deutsche Lufthansa AG are building “freezer farms” combining multiple refrigerators at their airport hubs to store vaccines in transit.
Yet cargo flights are fast filling up through February with bookings for consumer electronics, apparel and industrial parts through the holiday season and new year, said airline executives. This year’s peak season is expected to include a lift from the delayed iPhone 5G from Apple Inc. and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 5.
“We’re planning for the mother of all peaks,” said Don Colleran, president of FedEx’s express division, on an investor call last month.
Airlines said they would make room for essential supplies such as vaccines, just as they have for personal protective equipment throughout the pandemic.
Most of the potential vaccines have to be kept at a low constant temperature throughout the journey to prevent spoiling, according to cargo experts. These fall into two temperature ranges—around freezing and about minus 70 degrees Celsius—with very different transport and storage requirements.
Pharma executives said spoilage rates for other vaccines during transport range from 5% to as much as 20% because of poor temperature control.
“This is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the transportation industry,” Michael Steen, chief operating officer at Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings Inc., said in an interview. Atlas is one of the largest cargo airlines, flying freight on behalf of customers including Inc. and DHL.
Cargo executives said they expect it will take two years for a vaccine to reach all of the world’s population, with particular challenges in some emerging markets where infrastructure is limited.
The air-cargo industry isn’t starting from scratch. Pharma products have been one of the fastest-growing and most profitable cargo types over the past decade. Shippers have developed increasingly sophisticated supply chains for vaccines in recent years, especially for the flu. Gene therapies, another booming area, already require transport and storage at very low temperatures.
Planning flu-season vaccine deliveries typically starts months ahead and includes analyzing which routes and airports carry the highest risk for delays and spoilage, said Larry St. Onge, president of DHL’s life sciences and health care unit.
DHL is applying that analysis to potential Covid-19 vaccines, which will have more-urgent delivery needs and far larger volume.
IATA estimates transporting a single dose to the global population would require the equivalent of 8,000 fully-laden Boeing Co. 747 flights, based on dimensions for vials and packaging provided by pharma companies. A recent study by DHL and McKinsey & Co. pegged demand at 15,000 flights, while including syringes and protective equipment for medical staff would increase the cargo-space requirement.
Pharma shipments already account for around 1.9% of global air-cargo volume, said IATA, and adding Covid-19 vaccines could double that share. Not every freighter jet is able to handle very cold cargo because of regulatory restrictions on how much dry ice they can transport to cool them, said executives.
Air-cargo capacity is already tight, with flights flying fuller than before the pandemic started. International air-cargo capacity was down 32% in August from a year earlier while demand was only 14% lower.
The pandemic-driven travel downturn has removed from service hundreds of passenger jets and the belly space that once carried cargo. More freighters are joining the fleet, with Atlas returning stored 747s from the desert and passenger airlines converting around 100 planes to carry freight in their cabins.
Covid-19 vaccine makers such as Pfizer Inc. have already begun manufacturing doses to be ready for shipment should regulators authorize their use. However, the uncertainty over approval timing and shipping requirements has meant they have stopped short of booking space on cargo flights, said airline executives.
The U.S. government last month outlined its initial plans for distributing vaccines domestically under its Operation Warp Speed program run by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
McKesson Corp. , one of the world’s largest drug wholesalers, has been contracted by CDC to ship some vaccine types in the U.S. It hasn’t detailed how they would be transported, and air-cargo executives said they haven’t signed any Covid-19 vaccine-related deals yet. McKesson declined to comment.
President Trump said during the opening presidential debate last week that the military would support distribution of the vaccine. The Pentagon said it doesn’t expect to have to use military transport aircraft, except to very remote areas. “Our best military assessment is that there is sufficient U.S. commercial-transportation capacity to fully support vaccine distribution,” said a spokesman.