As a carrier, Lufthansa Cargo is well-prepared for the global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months. Air freight is absolutely indispensable for the fast and reliable intercontinental distribution of highly-sensitive pharmaceuticals. Therefore, the airline has launched a new product, ‘COVID-19 Temp Premium’ which ensures to meet all specific requirements of the vaccines. Apart from this, the carrier has also committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and recently operated the first CO2-neutral freight flight. Peter Gerber, CEO, Lufthansa Cargo, in a conversation with Ritika Arora Bhola, informs more about their readiness to make another important contribution to overcoming the pandemic by distributing vaccines worldwide in combination with temperature focus and a comprehensive distribution management concept throughout its entire network.

Airlines across the world are gearing up for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, many already making their initial move. What about Lufthansa Cargo’s readiness to make another historic contribution? 

Lufthansa Cargo is well-prepared for the global distribution of vaccines that will occur in the coming months. In fact, we have been preparing early for this and already ready to tackle this enormous challenge. Since last summer, a special task force led by the Group has been preparing a variety of possible transport scenarios. Some of the greatest challenges for this mission include ensuring consistent cold temperatures throughout the travel chain as well as capacity and route planning.

At present, we are in constant dialog with its customers, forwarders, shippers, and pharmaceutical manufacturers. We are also discussing solutions with our partners such as airports and ground handlers, politicians and authorities, in order to prepare optimally for the enormous challenge ahead. All of these will help us to ensure that our processes work perfectly, thus minimising the time from factory to patient.

Apparently, at the beginning of the pandemic crisis, we demonstrated a strong sense of responsibility. On one hand, we kept the supply routes open by air even under the most difficult conditions and on the other, we quickly absorbed crisis-related capacity bottlenecks in airfreight through flexible network management and introducing our ‘preighters’, thus carrying billions of protective masks and other essential products across Germany and the globe.

Kindly elaborate on the airline’s world-class cold chain infrastructure and technological solutions for storing, handling and distributing pharma and perishable products.

Lufthansa Cargo had already invested heavily in the necessary ground infrastructure before the pandemic crisis struck. We are very well-prepared to handle massive shipments with our pharmaceutical hubs at Frankfurt, Munich and Chicago airports and our 30 IATA CEIV Pharma certified stations worldwide– one of the world’s largest airline pharmaceutical networks. This alos includes a large number of additional stations for temperature-controlled freight worldwide.

What according to you are the emerging patterns of change likely to impact the global air cargo sector in 2021?

Besides the worldwide distribution of corona vaccines, sustainability and digitalisation will remain important topics for the global air freight sector. Keeping in mind the same, Lufthansa Cargo is eagerly driving forward both of them with several projects and initiatives. Especially, when it comes to sustainability, we take our responsibility very seriously and have committed to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. In this regard, we had recently operated the first CO2-neutral freight flight.

How do you think of India as a potential investment destination for global aviation stakeholders?

India continues to be one of the focus countries for Lufthansa Cargo worldwide. Its leading role with regards to digitalisation and pharmaceutical manufacturing and exports will certainly strengthen its position in the cargo market.  This not only reflects with our offering of a dense freighter schedule for India but also how we have been developing over the last decades in ‘Incredible India’.

As we move forward from here, we expect India to be one of the major producer markets of corona vaccines and related medication, which will ultimately strengthen India´s position as a global pharma export nation.

What is the latest update on your penetration in India?

With our diversified markets and product portfolio, our export consignments from India include a varied range of products, from urgently needed pharmaceuticals to time-critical spare parts shipments or consumer electronics – almost all kinds of transports are being made possible by us.

India is known as ‘the pharmacy of the world’ and therefore plays an important role in the pharmaceutical business.

Meanwhile, imports to India mainly are machinery parts, automotive shipments and similar.

Would you like to reveal to us about your upcoming expansion projects and plans?

Our upcoming priority project will be the global distribution of the coronavirus vaccine and at the same time regaining the missing belly capacities that hold up half of our cargo transport during normal times. Digitalisation will remain an important topic for us as well as we drive forth digital solutions and initiatives in the airfreight sector. Apart from these, we will roll out our PreCheck offer worldwide this year by opening an eFreight Center in Bengaluru Airport.

Additionally, we are part of different IATA working groups, for instance, the ONE Record. As I mentioned earlier, sustainability will be one of our focus topics. And as such, the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and offering our customers a green product will be at the top of our agenda.

How do you envision the year 2021 and beyond for your business and gaining lost sales?

Absorbing the lacking belly capacities is one of the many challenges at the moment. Being flexible and adjusting our network even on short notice helps us finding quick solutions. Many developments remain unclear due to the pandemic, but we are proactive to support customers and their needs in this challenging situation by finding new solutions and making our offers attractive and competitive for them.

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