FORT WORTH, Texas — Updated at 6:11 p.m. with a statement from Southwest Airlines and a clarification on American Airlines' flight processes.
American Airlines said in a statement Friday it successfully completed a trial flight from Miami to South America, testing the airline's thermal packaging and stress test processes it created for shipping vaccines.
The news comes after a Wall Street Journal report that United Airlines had shipped Pfizer's version of the COVID-19 vaccine on charter flights in preparation for regulator approval of the shots.
Fort-Worth based American Airlines said in an emailed statement Friday that they had taken a number of steps to deal with vaccines that must be kept at ultra-low temperatures. Pfizer has said it plans to ship its vaccine at minus-70 degrees Celsius (minus-94 degrees Fahrenheit).
"We have established a network of team members that specialize in temperature-critical shipments, and work closely with the FAA on regulations governing shipments transported with dry ice. We have worked with the FAA to increase dry ice limits on our widebody cargo-only flights," a Friday statement from American Airlines read.
American CEO Doug Parker also wrote on LinkedIn Wednesday about the test flight, calling the news "important, life-saving work" in which the airline is "excited to play a significant role."
Parker also used his LinkedIn post to stress the importance of extending the Payroll Support Program for airlines.
"American wants to do everything we can to expedite a vaccine. But we need our crews and aircraft standing ready. Supporting that infrastructure is exactly what PSP does and why its extension is so widely supported. We can’t wait until February. We need to extend PSP now," he wrote.
Southwest Airlines Cargo also said in an emailed statement Friday it will work with its clients that specialize in vaccine distribution to see how the airline can play a role in shipping once a vaccine is approved.
Southwest also mentioned federal support in its emailed statement:
"Heading into winter, assistance and support provided by Congressional payroll support would enhance our ability to serve communities across the nation from North Texas and we continue to urge Congress to pass an extension of the appreciated support."