American Airlines Begins Shipping The COVID-19 Vaccine

American Airlines has flown its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines on Sunday night. The aircraft, a Boeing 777, flew the doses from Chicago to Miami, en route to a US territory in the Caribbean. American Airlines joins the effort after cargo carriers began ferrying the vaccine around the US.

American vaccine shipment
American Airlines flew its first vaccine shipments from Chicago to Miami on a Boeing 777. Photo: American Airlines

American Airlines’ first COVID-19 vaccine shipment

On Sunday, December 13th, American Airlines began its vaccine shipment flights. The airline received the shipment by truck at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). Loaded on a Boeing 777-200, American then flew the vaccines to Miami International Airport (MIA).

In Miami, the vaccines connected on a flight to a US territory in the Caribbean. American did not specify which territories, which would include Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. American Airlines flies to points in both.

Jessica Tyler, American’s Cargo President, stated the following:

“The American team is proud to be a part of the critical effort to get lifesaving vaccine safely and quickly to people around the world. We were able to mobilize within hours of getting the call to move thousands of doses. We know this is the first of many shipments to come, and we are ready to scale our operation as additional vaccine is produced and ready for distribution.”

777-300ER Vaccine
American stated that the vaccines were going to a US territory in the Caribbean. Photo: American Airlines

The flight appears to be operated by AA275. It left Chicago in the evening and arrived at the night in Miami. American Airlines flies the route several times per day, though this flight was the only one operated using a Boeing 777. American does not usually fly a widebody on the route. However, with international schedules depleted and demand at their lowest points in recent history, American has plenty of downtime for planes to fly domestic and important cargo missions, like this one.

Gearing up for this

American Airlines has spent months working on getting ready to fly the vaccine. It began conducting trial flights in November to simulate the conditions required to transport the COVID-19 vaccine. This included stress-testing the thermal packaging and operational handling process to ensure the integrity of the vaccines during transit.

AA Vaccine loading
The vaccines being loaded onto the aircraft. Photo: American Airlines

Like many other airlines, American has worked to establish a network of facilities and team members to support temperature-critical shipments. This includes cold chain logistics. American Airlines has the ability to transport temperature-critical shipments to over 150 cities in 46 countries worldwide.

American Airlines also has the distinction of having the largest dedicated temperature-controlled pharmaceutical shipping facility operated by an airline in the United States.

American joins cargo carriers in distributing vaccines

FedEx and UPS jumped into action after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer vaccine. FedEx flew the first domestic COVID-19 vaccine shipment on Sunday out of Michigan.

In the last day or two, vaccines have been landing at various airports across the country. The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States were distributed early this morning. The first American to be vaccinated post-FDA approval appears to be a woman in New York.

American Airlines 777-200
American Airlines previously trialed flying vaccinations. Photo: Getty Images

American Airlines has a lot riding on this vaccine. The carrier is hoping that immunizations are a way to reopen borders, instill greater confidence in travel, and work its way back to profitability. The vaccine will not be the golden ticket for American out of the crisis, but it is part of the plan.

Are you glad to see American Airlines start to fly the COVID-19 vaccine? Let us know in the comments!