SIA to prioritise airfreight capacity for Covid-19 vaccines, trial flights soon

SINGAPORE – Singapore Airlines (SIA) will prioritise the mass shipments of Covid-19 vaccines into and through Singapore when they are available.

The carrier will also conduct test flights to trial vaccine transportation “soon”, similar to what airlines in Belgium and United States are doing.

“SIA will make available cargo space on its flights and accord uplift priority to Covid-19 vaccine shipments across the key vaccine trade lanes,” said SIA on Saturday (Dec 5), noting that it will prioritise its capacity for the vaccines.

“This means readying the Boeing 747-400 freighters, as well as the passenger aircraft fleet which will be deployed on cargo operations to increase the capacity for vaccine transportation where needed,” the carrier said in a statement.

It has signed agreements with cold chain container providers to ensure access to sufficient temperature-controlled containers when it starts transporting large volumes of vaccines.

A cold chain refers the process where a temperature-sensitive product is kept at a desired low-temperature range end-to-end throughout transportation and storage.

In a media event at Changi Airport on Saturday morning (Dec 5), SIA senior vice-president of cargo Chin Yau Seng said: “We have been in talks with some of the vaccine manufacturers and they are open to the idea. We are working out the details of the trials, so you can expect that in time.”

Such trial flights do not necessarily need to be done with the actual Covid-19 vaccine on board.

Instead, it can be done with sensors and the vaccine’s packaging to monitor how it’s temperature is managed throughout the journey.

“Of course if we have the (vaccine), it’s even better. Those details are being worked on,” said Mr Chin.

A range of active tracking devices has also been certified for use on board SIA’s planes to let vaccine producers and logistics providers to track shipments.

Outside of its planes, SIA is working with its ground handling partner Sats to ensure that the Singapore air hub is ready to handle and store large volumes of pharmaceutical shipments effectively.

“We have been working hard to ensure that we are ready for one of the biggest and most important supply chain challenges of our generation the transportation and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the world,” said Mr Chin.

“We will continue to grow our pharmaceutical handling capability by investing in our (cold chain) service and expanding our pharmaceutical quality corridor network.”

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