"With this facility, we can bring the goods directly into Philadelphia, and accommodate a lot more of them than we ever could," he said.
American's cargo customers include Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Pfizer, Merck, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Ivax, the airline said. The companies work with freight forwarders to manage their cold-chain logistics serving markets around the world.
The facility, in Cargo City, off I-95, will provide cold storage at three temperature ranges: 15 degrees to 25 degrees Celsius (59 to 77 Fahrenheit); 2 degrees to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 46); and a "deep frozen" area of zero degrees to minus-20 degrees Celsius (from 32 down to minus-4).
"Pharmaceuticals are the high-value bread-and-butter part of your cargo business," Workman said. "The new facility will allow us to handle a variety of goods at varying temperatures."
American is spending from $4 million to $5 million to retrofit a portion of Building C-7 that previously housed aircraft ground-support equipment. The location is next to a FedEx facility, fronts a public road, and backs onto the airport airfield.
US Airways already has 1,800 square feet of cold storage plus three refrigerated trucks in a separate building that will continue to handle perishable cargoes, such as tropical fish, flowers, lobster, and fresh fruit.
The additional 9,000 square feet of refrigeration will be dedicated to vaccines, blood products, gene therapies, tissues, insulin, eye-care products, recombinant therapeutic protein and living cells, immunotherapies, and raw pharmaceutical ingredients, the airline said.
United Parcel Service and FedEx have sizable airfreight operations at Philadelphia, but not cold storage capacity of this size, said Pat Fallon, manager of corporate real estate for American.
GlaxoSmithKline, which employs 5,000 in the Philadelphia area, said through a spokeswoman, Jennifer Armstrong: "We commend American Airlines for taking a leadership position in supporting the growing demand for temperature control infrastructure at major transportation gateways."
The U.K.-based drug maker said many of its U.S. temperature-controlled products now come through other gateways. "We do move some freight through the Philadelphia airport and hope to take advantage of this new facility as opportunities arise," Armstrong said.
US Airways' daily flight from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Philadelphia often carries pharmaceuticals.
Teva, based in Israel, is the world's leader in generic pharmaceutical revenue. Teva's Americas headquarters is in North Wales, Montgomery County.
The new cold storage facility will have a backup power supply in case of an electrical outage to keep the pharmaceuticals at the set temperatures.
"It's a substantial benefit to our cargo operation," Workman said. "It will drive, over the next year or two, a lot of business around the airport as companies in Philadelphia realize that they can do their shipping directly from here for a wide variety of goods."