The global aviation body, IATA, has said the industry has never seen such a downturn this deep before as air traffic falls below 50%. In these unprecedented times, the only way to get past it is by working together. Although most aircrafts are grounded and stored away, some are still flying and are helping to tackle Covid 19, through the air.
The Coronavirus pandemic has enforced new laws and has triggered large-scale lockdowns around the world as the number infected is soaring. Tens of thousands of British residents are stranded outside of the UK, away from their homes, and as uncertainty is rising, many fear they are unable to get home. As a result, on the 30th March 2020, the UK government announced a £75 million rescue mission to repatriate the estimated 300,000 stranded British citizens back home.
Therefore, many flag carriers around the world are operating repatriation flights to bring back stranded citizens back to their home country. Britain’s two main flag carriers, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, have operated and are still operating numerous flights to and from Asia and Africa.
Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said “it is an honour to support the government’s repatriation efforts and keep a small fleet of aircraft flying to bring stranded Britons back to the UK. When families step foot on board our aircraft and tell us how emotional it feels to be coming home, it reminds us why the job we are doing is still so important. We are hugely proud of our colleagues who continue to work with such dedication and commitment through this crisis to flu people and essential supplies across the world.”
On the 15th April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that 15,000 people were still flying into the UK every day. None of these travellers were tested at airports, he explained, because there was little scientific evidence that it would reduce the spread of Covid-19 in the UK. Currently, there are demands for travellers to face tougher measures before setting foot in the UK; Heathrow’s chief executive demanded that global standards on health checks at airports should be increased.
Commercial aircrafts converted into freighter aircrafts
As Covid-19 has been uncontrollably spreading, resources have sent around the world in attempt to aid countries cope with the increasing number of Coronavirus cases.
Several airlines, including Air Canada, Air New Zealand, British Airways and many more, have converted their commercial aircrafts into freights. It’s not how you think it is. Cargo isn’t only being stored in the small cargo bay beneath the aircraft. The boxes of supplies are being stored in the cabins on top of seats and some airlines, such as Cathay Pacific, have in fact removed the seats from their aircraft and converted it into a proper freighter.
On the 9th of April, a British Airways Boeing 777 aircraft was inbound to London Heathrow carrying needed supplies such as ventilators, personal protective equipment including goggles, face guards, gowns and many more. Departed from Shanghai, China, this flight was the first of several cargo flights containing essential medical equipment. In total, 55 tonnes of hand sanitisers would be transported to the UK (equivalent to 62,000 large bottles). This flight and many more to occur in the near future, was operated in partnership with the UK government and IAG Cargo. British Airways works with its sister company, IAG Cargo to fly supplies around the world. Since March, IAG Cargo and airlines within International Airlines Group (IAG) including Aer Lingus and Iberia have been transporting medical supplies to and from Europe to help fight against the impact of the Covid-19.
On the 28th April, Virgin Atlantic announced they are flying over 90 cargo-only flights a week in May. These flights are scheduled cargo flights between the US, China, India, Israel and South Africa. Capable of carrying up to 55 tonnes, Virgin Atlantic has chosen to operate their own Boeing 787-9 aircraft. Dominic Kennedy, Managing Director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, said: “I am amazingly proud of our cargo team and our colleagues across the airline that has enabled us to completely re-engineer our cargo business into a successful freight-only operation. This means we’ve been able to help our customers re-establish trade routes to and from many of their major international markets” following on with, “In the current operating environment, we have the ability to increase our cargo-only services quickly and to flex up our schedules in line with demand. We also expect an increase in customers seeking cargo charters, which we are ready and able to support. We want to play a leading role in getting Britain doing business again as the country looks to re-energise the UK economy.”
London Heathrow airport usually has around 600,000 flights daily on average, but due to lockdown, about 60 flights arrive daily. The aviation industry is undoubtedly doing all it can to reduce the impact of Covid-19