Most of the discussion this week about air travel seems to center on the United flight that was forced to divert its flight path so two unruly passengers could be escorted off the plane. Apparently a passenger was unable to recline their seat because the passenger behind them had attached a so-called “Knee Defender” to the seatback table. A flight attendant was called, voices were raised, and a passenger threw a cup of water in the other passenger’s face. After that, the pilot decided to divert the flight to Chicago, where authorities met the aircraft.


You can’t make this stuff up.


However, there were two important stories about air transport and cold-chain pharmaceuticals this week. The first was that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomes the decision of Brussels Airport management to become the first European hub for pharmaceutical freight using IATA’s global certification program for shipping cold-chain pharmaceuticals. The IATA Center of Excellence for Independent Validators (CEIV Pharma) is a standardized global certification program that trains and conducts onsite assessments to provide the expertise needed to adequately transport cold-chain pharmaceutical products around the world, according to IATA.


Brussels Airport management now will invite a group of ten local stakeholders (ground handlers, freight forwarders, truckers and airlines) to undergo the CEIV Pharma training to bring the cargo community together with a common goal of becoming certified. This will allow those Brussels-based stakeholders to offer pharmaceutical companies the competitive advantage of assuring cold-chain integrity to their clients. Since the program goes beyond the Good Distribution Practices (GDP) covering air transport requirements, it’s particularly attractive to forward-looking stakeholders who value the extra confidence this certification brings their pharmaceutical clients, says IATA.


The second news item is that American Airlines Cargo started construction of a dedicated pharmaceutical handling facility in Philadelphia. The 25,000-sq. ft. facility will cater to a range of temperature-sensitive products being shipped in and out of the Northeast pharmaceutical corridor of the U.S., Air Cargo World reports.


The new building will accommodate passive shipments stored at 15-25 degrees Celsius (59-77 degrees Fahrenheit). In addition, a refrigerated area will be available for shipments that need to be maintained in a 2-8 degree Celsius (35.6-46.4 degree Fahrenheit) environment. A deep frozen area will accommodate shipments that need to be kept at -20 to -10 degrees Celsius (-4 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit). Finally, a zoned active container area with powered charging stations will have space for up to 30 electronically-controlled units. The facility will include full back-up power generation to protect products in the event of a power failure.


The reason for locating the facility near Philadelphia is that the region is home to many pharmaceutical companies, and finished medicines and raw pharmaceutical ingredients constitute a major part of the airport’s freight, explains an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. American’s cargo customers include Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Pfizer, Merck, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline and Ivax, according to the airline. These companies work with freight forwarders to manage their cold-chain logistics serving markets around the world, the Inquirer article notes.


“A lot of the products coming to Philadelphia today come through John F. Kennedy and Newark airports because they have the capacity and types of cold-storage facilities that can support those goods,” says Rhett Workman, American’s managing director of government and airport affairs, in the Inquirer article. “With this facility, we will be able to bring the goods directly into Philadelphia, and accommodate a lot more of them than we could.”


What do you think of the news about the Brussels airport’s future capabilities and the plans for a new facility in Philadelphia? How will they have an impact on the cold-chain pharmaceutical supply chain?