United Airlines has become the first airline to voluntarily sign up for a White House program to fly baby formula into the United States from abroad to help ease a critical and ongoing nationwide shortage.
On Wednesday, President Biden announced United Airlines had agreed to ship enough baby formula to make up 3.7 million 8-ounce bottles of formula as part of his administration’s Operation Fly Formula.
United will free up enough cargo space to transport 300,000 pounds of baby formula made by the British Kendamil brand. All of the formula will be transported on United flights from Heathrow Airport in West London to several points across the United States.
The shipments will take place over a three-week period and have been offered to the Biden administration for free. The shipments are only now allowed after the Food and Drug Administration approved Kendamil baby formula for import late last week.
Biden thanked United Airlines during a press conference at the White House on Wednesday, telling reporters: “I want to thank United Airlines for partnering with us to get this done — they’re doing it on their own — with the first flight next week, continuing over the next two to three weeks.”
Operation Fly Formula was launched to cut red tape and speed up the import of foreign-produced baby formula after the major U.S. manufacturer Abbott was forced to issue a massive recall and shut down one of the main production plants in the U.S. following an FDA inspection.
Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis facility has since been reopened after Biden invoked the Defense Production Act and entered into a consent agreement with the FDA.
To date, Operation Fly Formula has facilitated the import of the equivalent of 1.5 million 8-ounce bottles of infant formula into the United States from abroad. So far, all imports have been via commercial aircraft contracted by the Department of Defense.
The United Airlines shipments will be the first offered for free by a commercial airline. Kendamil products will be sold to American families at Target retail stores and online.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.