On March 27th, Aegean Airlines announced its plans for a series of supply flights which will help the Greek state in its battle against coronavirus. The airline will work in cooperation with Hellenic Petroleum, Greece’s largest oil company, and its subsidiary EKO, who will cover the fuel costs for the flights.
Yesterday, Aegean Airlines revealed it will be operating a total of 10 flights to collect pharmaceutical and medical supplies from producers in Asia and transport them back to Greece. The airline will fly its aircraft from Greece to China and other countries in Asia where supplies will be loaded and flown back home.
How has Aegean Airlines prepared its aircraft?
While Aegean Airlines could operate these transport flights with its aircraft set up how they are, it has chosen to modify two aircraft in its fleet specifically for the role. The first aircraft, an Airbus A320, has had its internal capacity tripled in size to 120 cubic meters by removing all the seats. Meanwhile, the second aircraft, an Airbus A321, has had its internal capacity increased to 170 cubic meters.
The internal adaptation of these two passenger aircraft will allow Aegean and its partner in the operation, Hellenic Petroleum, to complete the flights with significantly increased efficiency with lower overhead costs.
Additionally, Hellenic Petroleum and EKO have said they will be keeping their refueling stations open at airports cross Greece in case they are needed for any emergency refueling. Greece hasn’t yet introduced a full temporary shutdown of international or domestic flights, so these refueling stations will likely still be in normal operation with significantly reduced demand.
What else will the flights be used for?
In addition to the collection and delivery of medical and pharmaceutical supplies, Aegean Airlines has said its aircraft will be made available for other purposes. In the press release published on its website yesterday, Aegean said that the current initiative is being operated on behalf of the Greek Ministry for Civil Protection. However, the flights may also be used to carry out the objectives of other organizations, such as NGOs or donors.
Alongside supply flights, Aegean also says it will operate repatriation flights on the request of the General Secretariat for Civil Protection and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Aegean Airlines has already operated a number of repatriation flights to countries across Europe and further afield. On Thursday an Aegean Airlines flight brought Greek citizens back from Istanbul. Another flight on Friday brought back 32 Greek citizens stranded in London, a number of whom traveled to the UK to undergo surgery.
Depending on how the coronavirus pandemic spreads in Greece in the coming days and weeks, the country may well be forced to introduce a temporary ban on all flights in order to stop further spread of the disease. The country has already banned flights to and from Turkey and the UK.