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The Vital Role of Air Carriers and Logistics Specialists in Humanitarian Aid

The Vital Role of Air Carriers and Logistics Specialists in Humanitarian Aid

Air Carriers and Logistics Specialists in Humanitarian Aid

Air carriers and logistics specialists are becoming increasingly crucial in meeting the growing demand for humanitarian emergency response. According to Airlink, an international aid organization, the need for efficient logistics is more significant than ever due to global conflicts and climate change-induced weather events.

The Rising Demand for Humanitarian Aid

With the escalating need for humanitarian aid, the logistics sector is under pressure to deliver. Data from Airlink shows that approximately 73% of the cost of an aid program goes into supply chain management, including transport logistics. This highlights the critical role logistics play in the successful delivery of aid.

Overcoming Logistical Challenges

Steve Smith, CEO of Airlink, pointed out a major challenge in humanitarian logistics: many small NGOs lack proper budgets and logistical expertise. Often, these organizations receive large donations of aid supplies but struggle with the unbudgeted transport costs needed to deliver these goods.

“Many small NGOs turn to us to cover these costs thanks to our in-kind donor airlines, freight forwarders, and cash donors,” Smith explained. Airlink’s partnerships with airlines and logistics companies enable them to manage these logistical challenges effectively.

Shifting Focus Due to Global Events

The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have significantly shifted Airlink's focus from a responder-centered model to a cargo-centered one. While the organization continues to move responders, its primary role now is facilitating the transportation of cargo for NGO partners.

Significant Achievements and Partnerships

In the past year, Airlink has successfully delivered aid to countries including Haiti, Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Tigray, and Iraq. This was made possible with the support of partners such as American Airlines Cargo, Qatar Airways Cargo, Turkish Airways.

These partnerships are essential for overcoming logistical hurdles, especially in areas with complex access issues. Currently, Airlink is responding to floods in Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state, providing flights for humanitarian aid despite the Brazilian government not calling for international assistance.

Innovative Solutions in Crisis Response

In response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Airlink transported four "hospitainers" from the Netherlands to Egypt for the International Medical Corps. These are essentially hospitals in shipping containers, designed to provide hospital-grade medical care in disaster zones.

However, accessibility challenges in regions like Afghanistan often mean aid must be flown to the nearest port and then transported by truck to its final destination. Airlink's ability to provide charter flights, funded by corporate donors, helps fill these logistical gaps.

Broadening Support Networks

Beyond airlines and logistics partners, Airlink collaborates with various organizations for additional support. For instance, Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP offers pro-bono legal services, and American Express Global Business Travel is developing systems to manage flights for responders. Financial support comes from companies like ACI Europe, BOC Aviation, and SMBC Capital.

A Call to Action for the Logistics Industry

Smith believes every business can contribute, either through in-kind support or by incorporating Airlink into their corporate giving frameworks. “The need for humanitarian aid is growing globally, and every actor within the logistics, cargo, and aviation sectors can play a part. Airlink’s mission is to facilitate this involvement, making it as straightforward and impactful as possible,” he said.


The logistics industry’s role in humanitarian aid is more critical than ever. By leveraging partnerships and innovative solutions, organizations like Airlink ensure that aid reaches those who need it most, even in the most challenging circumstances.

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