Playing a key role in global COVID-19 vaccine distribution: EUROCONTROL and partners agree to prioritise critical vaccine flights

Airplane loaded with a pallet of COVID-19 vaccines

Safely delivering COVID-19 vaccines represents a huge logistical challenge that EUROCONTROL is proud to support actively.

EUROCONTROL has joined forces with a wide range of partners to facilitate air traffic flow management (ATFM) for critical COVID-19 vaccines, working closely with European air navigation service providers (ANSPs), airlines, airports, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NAV CANADA, the Canadian ANSP.

For some vaccines, avoiding delivery delay is crucial, and as from 28 January 2021, flight operators will be able to use a special code for crucial vaccine flights (“STS/ATFMX RMK/VACCINE”) in their flight plans. Flights marked in this way as essential vaccine transports that file plans to access the European network or transatlantic routes will then be automatically recognised by the EUROCONTROL Network Manager’s (NM) systems, and prioritised as much as possible.

“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic international air traffic has been reduced to a minimum, and so have air traffic delays. However, as traffic rebuilds the air transport of vaccines could become hampered by delays in the network. This is the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry. To protect against any risks, in agreement with our Member States and our North-American partners at the FAA and NAV CANADA, we are pleased to coordinate a harmonised approach to the safe and efficient transportation of COVID-19 vaccines by air enabling their swift distribution to people around the world.”

Eamonn Brennan Director General EUROCONTROL

Aircraft operators within the EUROCONTROL NM area must follow the published process for the country of origin when applying for ATFM exemptions. Seeing the ATFMX designator in the flight plan will ensure that ANSPs can keep track of these flights and prioritise them as necessary.

Flight operators are asked to be selective in their identification of critical flights to facilitate assistance by ANSPs. For critical flights operating in US or Canadian airspace, flight operators should provide advance notification of the flight to the respective authority: FAA’s Command Center or NAV CANADA’s National Operations Center. If an issue arises after departure, the flight crew may inform Air Traffic Control (ATC) directly. Additionally, flight operators are encouraged to notify the FAA, EUROCONTROL NM, Canadian ATC, or other appropriate authority of the airborne issue and request assistance.

Harmonised approach by FAA, NAV CANADA, and EUROCONTROL

How can AOs use ATFMX for flights that are considered critical due to the carriage of COVID-19 vaccines.

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