Temperature Controlled Aircraft Unit Load Devices: The Technological Response to Growing Global Air Cargo Cool Chain Requirements

Glenn Baxter, Kyriakos Kourousis


Unit load devices (ULDs) are pallets and containers which are used to carry air cargo, mail and passengers baggage on wide-body aircraft. Using an in-depth case study, an empirical investigation was undertaken to examine the recent technological developments and innovations in the temperature-controlled containers that are used extensively in the growing and highly important air cargo cool chains. The results demonstrated that advances in refrigeration systems and the use of composite materials used in the construction of these containers have enhanced the ability of key stakeholders to provide unbroken cool-chains. The study further demonstrated that the services and expertise of Envirotainer, the case company, as well as its strategic partnerships with key stakeholders, underpin its ability to deliver and capture value from its participation in the industry.


air cargo; aircraft unit load devices; airlines; cool chain; temperature-controlled containers; wide-body aircraft

Full Text:



AHMED, A.M., Almarri, K.S. (2007). SWOT analysis for Air China. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/learning/ management_thinking/articles/pdf/air_china.pdf?PHPSESSID =tn5uvca64v0ngt3cjpgoctji20 [Accessed January 28, 2014].

AIR CARGO WORLD. (2013). Pharma market: poised for growth. Air Cargo World, 16(1), 32-35.

AIRBUS. (2013). A320 family: the market leader. http:// www.airbus.com/fileadmin/media_gallery/files/brochures_ publications/aircraft_families/A320_Family_market_leaderleaflet.pdf [Accessed January 1, 2014].

ALLAZ, C. (2004). History of Air Cargo and Mail from the 18th Century. Christopher Foyle Publishing in association with The International Air Cargo Association, London.

ASHFORD, N.J., Mumayiz, S.A., Wright, P.H. (2011). Airport Engineering: Planning, Design, and Development of 21st Century Airports (4th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.

ASHFORD, N.J., Stanton, H.P.M., Moore, C.A., Coutu, P., Beasley, J.R. (2013). Airport Operations (3rd ed.). McGrawHill, New York.

BAXTER, G.S. (2011). Restructuring Air Freight Chains: Strategic Options for Competitive Advantage (unpublished PhD thesis). Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.

BAXTER, G., KOUROUSIS, K., WILD, G. (2014). Fire Resistant Aircraft Unit Load Devices and Fire Containment Covers: A New Development in the Global Air Cargo Industry. Journal of Aerospace Technology and Management, 6 (2), 202-209.

BAZARGAN, M. (2010). Airline Operations and Scheduling (2nd ed.). Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, UK.

BOEING COMMERCIAL AIRPLANES. (2013). World air cargo forecast 2012-2013. http://www.boeing.com/assets/ pdf/commercial/cargo/wacf.pdf [Accessed 23 December 2013].

CATHAY PACIFIC CARGO. (2013a). Products and solutions: Fresh LIFT. http://www.cathaypacificcargo.com/Default.aspx?tabid=610 [Accessed December 20, 2013].

CATHAY PACIFIC CARGO. (2013b). Products and solutions: Pharma LIFT. http://www.cathaypacificcargo.com/en-us/ productssolutions/specialcargo/pharmalift.aspx [Accessed December 20, 2013].

CHANG, Y.S., Son, M.G., Oh, C.H. (2011). Design and implementation of RFID based air-cargo monitoring system. Advanced Engineering Informatics, 25(1), 41–52. http:// dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aei.2010.05.004

CORLEY, W. (2002). Trade logistics 101: an introduction to forwarding. Export America, 3(8), 16-18.

COYLE, J.J., Novack, R.A., Gibson, B.J., Bardi, E.J. (2011), Transportation: A Supply Chain Perspective (7th ed.). SouthWestern Cengage Publishing, Mason, OH.

DAMSGAARD, J. (1999). Global Logistics System Asia Co., Ltd. Journal of Information Technology, 14(3), 303-314.

DEMPSEY, P.S., Gesell, L.E. (1997). Air Transportation: Foundations for the 21st Century. Coast Aire Publications, Chandler, AZ.

DOGANIS, R. (2009). Flying off Course: Airline Economics and Marketing (4th ed.). Routledge, London.

EDMONDSON, A.C., McManus, S.E. (2007). Methodological fit in management field research. The Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1155-1179.

EISENHARDT, K.M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532-550.

ENVIROTAINERº. (2013a). Technical specifications: Envirotainer® container RAP e2. http://www.envirotainer. com/Documents/Downloads/Technical%20Specifications/ Envirotainer_TechSpecRAPe2.pdf [Accessed January 23, 2014].

ENVIROTAINERº. (2013b). Technical specifications: Envirotainer® container RKN e1. http://www.envirotainer. com/Documents/Downloads/Technical%20Specifications/ Envirotainer_TechSpecRKNe1.pdf [Accessed January 23, 2014].

ENVIROTAINERº. (2014a). Envirotainer RAP e2 container. http://www.envirotainer.com/en/active-containers/OurContainer-Products/Envirotainer-RAP-e2/ [Accessed January 29, 2014].

ENVIROTAINERº. (2014b). Envirotainer RKN e1 container. http://www.envirotainer.com/en/active-containers/OurContainer-Products/Envirotainer-RKN-e1/ [Accessed January 29, 2014].

ENVIROTAINERº. (2014c). Envirotainer RAP t2 container. http://www.envirotainer.com/en/active-containers/OurContainer-Products/Envirotainer-RAP-t2/ [Accessed January 29, 2014].

ENVIROTAINERº. (2014d). Envirotainer RKN t2 container. http://www.envirotainer.com/en/active-containers/OurContainer-Products/Envirotainer-RKN-t2/ [Accessed January 29, 2014].

ENVIROTAINERº. (2014e). History of Envirotainer. http:// www.envirotainer.com/en/top-About-us/History/ [Accessed January 23, 2014].

ENVIROTAINERº. (2014f). Technical support. http://www. envirotainer.com/en/Active-Cold-Chain-Services/Technicalsupport/ [Accessed January 29, 2014].

ENVIROTAINERº. (2014g). What we do. http://www. envirotainer.com/en/top-About-us/Our-Promise/ [Accessed January 23, 2014].

ESTRADA-FLORES, S. (2012). Transportation of frozen foods. In: Sun, D.W. (Ed.), Handbook of Frozen Food Processing and Packaging (2nd ed.). CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 217-234.

FASONE, V., Maggiore, P. (2012). “Non-Aviation” activities and the introduction of new thinking and ideas in the airport business: Empirical evidence from an Italian case study. Journal of Airline and Airport Management, 2(1), 34-


FOX, M.C. (2011). Disintegrative Power Structures in Australian Export Airfreight Chains (Unpublished PhD thesis). Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.

FREISSMUTH, J. (2013). Facing the pharmaceutical future. http://www.pharmamanufacturing.com/articles/2013/021/ [Accessed 22 December 2013].

GREEN, R.A. (2011). Case Study Research: A Program Evaluation Guide for Librarians. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA.

GRUBER, A. (2012). IATA standards: transportation of time and temperature sensitive products. http://www. pharmoutsourcing.com/Featured-Articles/117703-IATAStandards-Transportation-of-Time-and-TemperatureSensitive-Products/ [Accessed December 22, 2013]

HARRISON, D. (2011). The Active Cold Chain. http://www. uldcare.com/DATA/DOCUMENT/Miami11_THE_ACTIVE_ COLD_CHAIN_by_Donald_Harrison_Envirotainer.pdf

[Accessed January 29, 2013]

HOFFMAN, M. (2012). Shipping perishables by air cargo, Food Logistics, March 16 [online]. http://www.foodlogistics. com/article/10657411/shipping-perishables-by-air-cargo [Accessed December 21, 2013]

INTERNATIONAL AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION. (2013a). ULD update, January 2013. http://www.iata.org/ publications/tracker/jan-2013/Pages/ULDR.aspx [Accessed December 5, 2013].


INTERNATIONAL AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION. (2014a). Air cargo: Delivering the modern world, http:// www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/pages/index.aspx [Accessed January 12, 2014].

INTERNATIONAL AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION. (2014b). Perishables & pharma. https://www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/pharma/pages/index.aspx [Accessed January 21, 2014]

INTERNATIONAL AIR TRANSPORT ASSOCIATION. (2014c). Time & temperature sensitive label. https://www. iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/pharma/Pages/time-temperaturelabel.aspx [Accessed December 22, 2013]

KLENKE, K. (2008). Qualitative Research in the Study of Leadership. Emerald Group Publishing, Bingley, UK.

LANIEL, M., Uysal, I., Emond, J.P. 2011. Radio frequency interactions with air cargo container materials for real-time cold chain monitoring. Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 27(4), 647-652.

LI, Y., Tao, Y., Wang, F. (2009). A compromised large-scale neighborhood search heuristic for capacitated air cargo loading planning. European Journal of Operational Research, 199(2), 553-560. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejor.2008.11.033

LU, H.A., Chen, C.Y. (2011). A time-space network model for unit load device stock planning in international airline services. Journal of Air Transport Management, 17(2), 94-100. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jairtraman.2010.09.004

LU, H.A.; Chen, C.Y. (2012). Safety stock estimation of unit load devices for international airline operations. Journal of Marine Science and Technology, 20(4), 431-440.

MALDONADO, M.U., Dias, N., Varvakis, G. (2009). Managing innovation in small high-technology firms: a case study in Brazil. Journal of Technology Management &

Innovation, 4(3), 130-142. http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0718-27242009000200011

McCUTCHEN, D.M., Meredith, J.R. (1993). Conducting case study research in operations management. Journal of Operations Management, 11(3), 239-256. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0272-6963(93)90002-7

McDONALD, A. (2009). Shipping systems. European Pharmaceutical Contractor, March, 104-107.

McPHERSON, K (2011) Air cargo & the cold chain, World Trade 100, June. http://www.worldtradewt100.com/ articles/87331-industry-update-air-cargo-and-the-cold-chain [Accessed December 20, 2013].

MENTZER, J.T., Flint, D.J. (1997). Validity in logistics research. Journal of Business Logistics, 18(1), 199-216.

MORRELL, P.S. (2011a). Moving Boxes by Air: The Economics of International Air Cargo. Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, UK.

MORRELL, P.S. (2011b). The air cargo industry. In: O’Connell, J.F., Williams, G. (Eds.), Air Transport in the 21st Century: Key Strategic Developments. Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, UK, pp. 235-251.

NOBERT, Y., Roy, J. (1998). Freight handling personnel scheduling at air cargo terminals. Transportation Science, 32(3), 295-301.

O’CONNOR, W.E. (2001). An Introduction to Airline Economics (6th ed). Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT.

OEDEKOVEN, M. (2010). Air cargo management. In: Wald, A., Fay, C., Gleich, R. (Eds.), Introduction to Aviation Management. LIT Verlag, Münster, Germany, pp. 311-327.

PALAFOX-ALBARRAN, J., Jedermann, R., Lang, W. (2010). Prediction of temperature inside a refrigerated container in the presence of perishable goods, In ICINCO – Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Informatics in Control, Automation and Robotics, Funchal, Portugal, 15-18 June, 1, 20-27.

PAYLOAD ASIA. (2014). Cold chain capabilities grow as market diversifies. Payload Asia, 30(1), 20.

PUTZGER, I. (2012). Just the tonic, Airline Cargo Management, 11 [Online]. http://www.airlinecargomanagement. com/feature/pharmaceuticals-supply-chain?session_ id=jiq8rrvchai5q2ev558hj8p9l4 [Accessed December 20, 2013].

RAHIM, A.R.A., Baksh, M.S.N. (2003). Case study method for new product development in engineer-to-order organizations. Work Study, 52(1), 25-36. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00438020310458705

RAMANUJAM, V. (2013). Pharma transport by air: delivering the modern world. ACAAI News, 4(3), 9-11.

REYNOLDS-FEIGHAN, A. (2013). Comparative analysis of air freight networks in regional markets around the globe. In: Bookbinder, J.H. (Ed.), Handbook of Global Logistics: Transportation in International Supply Chains. Springer Science+Business Media, New York, pp. 324-366.

ROBINSON, R. (2009). Chain Systems Analysis: New Thinking about Supply Chain Efficiency. Monograph 1. The Centre for Integrated Freight Systems Management, Melbourne, Australia.

ROTHKOPF, M., Wald, A. (2010). Innovation in the airline business. In: Wald, A., Fay, C., Gleich, R. (Eds.), Introduction to Aviation Management. LIT Verlag: Münster, Germany, pp. 357-373.

SALES, M. (2013). The Air Logistics Handbook: Air Freight and the Global Supply Chain. Routledge, London.

SENGUTTVAN, P.S. (2006). Fundamentals of Air Transport Management. Excel Books: New Delhi.

SHAW, S. (1993). Effective Air Freight Marketing. Hyperion Books, London.

SHAW, S. (2011). Airline Marketing and Management (7th ed.). Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, UK.

SUN, M.G., Chang, Y.S., Oh, C.H. (2012). Smart perishable cargo management with RFID and sensor network. In: Kantola, J., Karwowski, W. (Eds.), Knowledge Service Engineering Handbook. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, pp. 187196.


THOMPSON, B. (2007). Ground handling opportunities for airports. Journal of Airport Management, 1(4), 393-397.

THOMPSON, J.F., Bishop, C.F.H., Brecht, P.E. (2004). Air Transport of Perishable Products. University of California, Oakland, CA.

TRETHEWAY, M.W., Andriulaitis, R.J. (2010). Airport competition for freight. In Forsyth, P., Gillen, D., Mϋller, J., Niemeier, H.M. (Eds.), Airport Competition: The European Experience. Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, UK, pp.137-150.

VICTORIAN AIR FREIGHT COUNCIL. (1997). A Guide for International Air Freight Users. Business Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

WHALEN, B. (1984). Perishable cargo delivered jet fresh by air. SAE Technical Paper 840714, http://papers.sae. org/840714/ [Accessed January 12, 2014].

WATERS, W. (2013a). Standard procedure. Cargo Airports & Services, March, 22-27.

WATERS, W. (2013b). The right medicine, Cargo Airports and Services, (Autumn/Winter): 56-60.

WILLIAMS, P. (2010). Optimization of 2-8 degrees celsius controlled-temperature small parcels. http://pharmaceuticalcommerce.com/special_ report?articleid=2005 [Accessed December 19, 2013].

WOOD, D.F., Barone, A., Murphy, P., Wardlow, D.L. (1995). International Logistics. Chapman & Hall, New York.

YIN, R.K. (2009). Case Study Research Design and Methods (10th ed.). SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4067/S0718-27242015000100012

Copyright (c) 2015 Journal of Technology Management & Innovation

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

2017 © Universidad Alberto Hurtado - Facultad de Economía y Negocios. 
Erasmo Escala 1835 - Santiago, Chile.
Economic Analysis Review | Observatorio Económico | Gestión y Tendencias 

Journal Supported by Chimera Innova Group