Covid-19 vaccines, the hope for our airline industry

When Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca to name a few announced the release of their Covid-19 vaccines, the world lit up with hope. The much awaited Covid-19 vaccines are now out and the world is eager to get a dose. Hopefully, these vaccines would be able to help us get back to our normal lives ones again. Yes, this includes travelling.

Photo credits: Charleston Felimon

Of course, the vaccines are very good news for the airlines too as they hope that the demand for air travel rises again. However, there is more good news for the airlines as this presents another opportunity to help them recover, and that is through the transportation of these highly in-demand Covid-19 vaccines!

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), potential size of the delivery of Covid-19 vaccines is enormous. Just providing a single dose to 7.8 billion people would fill 8,000 747 cargo aircraft. Land transport will help, especially in developed economies with local manufacturing capacity. But vaccines cannot be delivered globally without the significant use air cargo.

This means, that for every B747 is vaccines that can cover 975,000 people. 

If we were to look into the Philippines with a population of 106.7 million people (data as of 2018), that means you would need around 109 B747 cargo planes carrying vaccines to cover the entire country. 

This now indeed presents a huge opportunity for our local airlines, especially those that operate wide body jets. While at this time, it would be hard to fill wide body aircraft like the Boeing 777, Airbus A350, and A330 with passengers on a normal basis, these may be big enough to fill in cargo loads of vaccines. Philippine Airlines operates a wide-body fleet of Boeing 777-300ER, Airbus A350-900, and Airbus A330-300 while Cebu Pacific operates Airbus A330-300 wide-body jets. In fact, Cebu Pacific has already converted a few of their A330-300s into "preighters". 

PAL has also announced that it is preparing their wide-body fleet for the transportation of these vaccines. They are also the only airline in the country that utilize ultra-long haul wide-body jets which can do direct flights from mainland United States and Europe.

The Philippines is an archipelago. While sea transport can also be a mean to transport these vaccines, air cargo presents a faster solution. Majority of our airlines operate a fleet of narrowbody jets like the Airbus A320 and some do operate turboprops like PAL Express, CebGo, AirSwift, and Sunlight Air. These allows the transport of vaccines via air to smaller islands with of course, smaller airports.

While it may take time for passenger demand to rise again, the transport of Covid-19 vaccines from abroad to the Philippines, around the country, and throughout the region presents a hope for faster recovery.

This is indeed good news for our airline industry, and of course, for every person living in this planet.

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