Article: Hand Carry - Dissecting the Myth

By Simon Ellison |

What is a hand carry? 

Hand carries are where a person takes the shipping container with all the necessary paperwork onto the plane with them. The theory behind this strategy is that it provides a clear chain of custody and better control for the therapy developer.

World Courier Hand Carry

Within the advanced therapy market there is a perception that hand carries are the safest and quickest way to transport therapies and starting materials. There is also the impression that this system avoids the need for security clearance and x-ray.

Remarkably, this misguided logic would imply that as long as you tell the Customs Officer that the box contains a life-changing therapy, and therefore they cannot conduct an x-ray, they will simply smile and let you through. Reassuringly, customs officers are not this generous and all shipments undergo stringent assessments before they can fly.

Important shipment information

CGT Import Info 

Providing a quick and safe solution

Hand carries may appear to be the quickest and safest system to transport life-changing therapies, but they still pose significant challenges. They have their place in small-scale or early clinical trials, but unless a therapy developer can afford to hire a large team for the sole purpose of escorting their packages, it is impossible to scale into economic and practical commercial reality.

Specialty couriers such as World Courier have the systems in place to track packages throughout their shipments’ journeys, either as hand carry or in the aircraft hold. We also have significant experience with import requirements to manage security obligations, delivering secure shipments without x-ray exposure.  

World Courier will only call upon its own employees for hand carries, which can have cost implications, but more importantly ensures quality of service and compliance with the relevant standard operating procedures and regulations. Not all couriers have this policy, so costs may vary.

Above all, our qualified packaging systems, audited relationships with airlines and global infrastructure help to securely manage shipments in the hold of the aircraft. This produces a scalable, cost-effective and robust system to transport advanced therapies across international borders.


About the Author

A portrait of Simon Eliison.

Simon Ellison

Cell and Gene Therapy Service Director from Sep ’17 – April ’20
World Courier
Simon Ellison, our Service Director for Cell and Gene Therapy, passed away in April 2020. Simon leaves a lasting legacy at World Courier and a distinctive mark on the advanced therapy logistics industry. His mission goes on with all of us to deliver cell and gene therapy treatments to patients in need.
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