Aer Lingus To Fly To Asia For The First Time: 5 Daily Medical Flights To Beijing

Ireland’s flag-carrier Aer Lingus is going to fly five Airbus A330 aircraft to China to collect medical goods. The supply runs will be operated by dozens of volunteer pilots on Aer Lingus’ largest aircraft 60 times in total.

Aer Lingus landing
Aer Lingus launches five daily flights to China to pick up medical supplies. Photo: Getty

Five A330s in new skies

The national airline of Ireland, Aer Lingus, has committed to fly five of its Airbus A330 passenger planes to China to collect medical supplies ordered by Ireland’s Health Services The planes will be captained by dozens of volunteer pilots. The A330s are usually deployed on Aer Lingus’ transatlantic routes. 

No passengers will be on board the planes, but rather the seats will on the return trip be filled with medical equipment, such as ventilators, masks, goggles, testing kits and more. A spare pilot will be on board for all flights, but no cabin crew is expected to travel. As reported by the Irish Mirror, the pilots were getting their visas sorted at the Chinese embassy in Dublin on Wednesday. 

Aer Lingus A330
The pilots of the A330s will not disembark while in China. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Pilots will not disembark for 24 hours

The front of the planes will be sectioned off for the staff to rest. This will be much needed as they will basically fly there, get the supplies on board, fuel up, and then take off and turn straight back home. The pilots will not be able to leave the aircraft in China, or they would risk being put under quarantine when returning to Ireland.

The flight time between Dublin and Beijing is just over 10 hours on the way there, and 13+ hours on the way back, which means they will stay on the aircraft for over 24 hours.

The first of the planes is understood to be leaving Dublin for Beijing on Saturday, and the airline hopes to start its five daily flights from Tuesday next week. The Chinese embassy in Dublin said that it was doing its best to help negotiate slots at Beijing airports. If these flights make all the planned 60 return trips, that would ensure over 100,000 coronavirus testing kits make it to Ireland. 

Aer Lingus a330
This will be the first time Aer Lingus flies its A330s to Asia. Photo: Scott Wright via Wikimedia Commons

An Aer Lingus first

This will be Aer Lingus’ first-ever flights to Asia. Normally Aer Lingus passengers would travel to Beijing with a stopover in either London or Amsterdam, transferring to either Air China or KLM as codeshare partners. Direct flights between the Irish and the Chinese capitals were being operated for a brief period of time by Chinese Hainan Airlines, who put the route on ice in October last year. 

Cathay Pacific was set to restore its direct Hong Kong to Dublin route for the IATA summer season. When the route launched in June 2018, just before Hainan Airlines commenced theirs, it was the Irish capital’s first direct service to any part of China. But as the future of Cathay now hangs in the balance, hard hit both by last year’s civil unrest, and now the corona-crisis, we shall have to wait and see what happens to those plans.

Cargo and repatriation at Dublin Airport

Dublin airport remains open, but passenger numbers have dropped by 76%. Airport representatives expect the numbers to go down further but, according to RTÉ, it will stay open to accommodate repatriation flights and cargo.

Alitalia is operating a couple of flights on request of the Italian Foreign Ministry to bring Italians back from Dublin, and it will also fly Irish that have found themselves stranded in Italy back home too. Similar to the Aer Lingus humanitarian supply runs, these flights will be operated with A330s. However, in this case, the widebody aircraft will be filled entirely with people. 

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