Alaska Air Cargo

A cargo partnership that saves lives

Alaska Air Cargo employees don’t typically see themselves as part of a medical emergency response team – but when a human organ must fly to a transplant center, they are.
“Most people don’t realize the hustle that goes into getting an organ where it needs to be to save a life,” said Candy Wells, Director of Organ Utilization for LifeCenter Northwest, the nonprofit organization that has managed organ donation in Washington, North Idaho, Montana and Alaska for the past 25 years. “When an organ becomes available, we rely on our partners at Alaska Air Cargo to get it there on time.”
Over the past five years, more than 14,000 organs and tissue samples have traveled via Alaska Air Cargo on their way to recipients, who have often been waiting for months – even years. The cargo team has worked hard over the past year to streamline and standardize our processes for transporting organs, and the extra care for an organ starts with the reservation, said Jeff Olver, Director of Cargo Operations for Seattle and the state of Alaska.
A booking with the word “transplant” triggers an alert to the 24-hour Cargo Network Services team, which notifies both the management team and employees at the origin and destination cargo counters, said Olver, who was instrumental in leading recent updates to these procedures. A runner hand-carries the organ box to and from the aircraft. “We make sure it has a positive handoff, which means that we personally hand it off to the personnel in charge of loading that flight, and we advise them it is a lifesaving organ,” Olver said.
Organs and tissue samples always travel via our premium GoldStreak Package Express service, which allows the shortest dropoff and pickup times. “The most important thing we do is get a transplant organ to its flight on time, and we take a lot of care in that process,” Olver said.
“The work that the cargo workers and the ramp workers are doing, it’s truly heroic work,” Wells said. “This is the most precious cargo.”

Learn more about our partnership with LifeCenter Northwest

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