Air Malta has made history by operating its longest-ever non-stop flight. Last night, the airline flew a shipment of coronavirus vaccines from its Luqa (MLA) hub to Kigali International (KGL) in Rwanda. The flight underlined the capabilities of its new Airbus A320neos.
A history-making flight
Air Malta proudly took to LinkedIn yesterday evening to announce that it was about to fly its longest-ever non-stop flight, in terms of both time and distance. The Maltese flag carrier’s bread and butter is its short-haul European network, and its flights beyond Europe (to the likes of Tel Aviv and Tunis) are also not the longest of sectors.
However, thanks to the capabilities of the airline’s new Airbus A320neo aircraft, Air Malta was able to stretch its legs somewhat last night. Indeed, flight KM7510 was planned to take seven hours to fly the 2,426 NM (4,493 km) to Kigali. This is a testament to the A320neo series’ enhanced performance compared to earlier models. Air Malta stated:
“Such long-distance non-stop flights can now be operated with the airline’s new A320neo aircraft that offer additional range, 20% lower fuel costs, are more environmentally friendly, and have a 50% less noise footprint than the older Airbus A320ceo models.”
The reason for this record-breaking and unorthodox route was to allow Air Malta to carry out a COVID-19 vaccine delivery. Africa is a key market for such flights, as vaccination rates remain relatively low. For example, as Simple Flying explored last month, Kenya has fully vaccinated just 1.6% of its adult population. Air Malta confirmed before the journey that:
“The charter flight, to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, will carry 135,690 AstraZeneca vaccines donated by the Government of Malta to the African nation.”
RadarBox.com shows that KM7510 left Malta this morning at 02:16 local time. Interestingly, the tracking website notes that Air Malta has used this flight number on one other occasion in the last 12 months, namely for a trip to Basel/Mulhouse in January. FlightRadar24.com reports that it touched down in Kigali after six and a half hours in the air at 08:46.
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The aircraft involved
Air Malta also confirmed that it would be carrying out its longest-ever non-stop flight with its newest Airbus A320neo. Registered as 9H-NED, data from ch-aviation.com shows that this is one of four of the next-generation narrowbodies in the Maltese flag carrier’s fleet. These aircraft have an average age of 2.2 years old, with the first joining in June 2018.
Meanwhile, Air Malta’s three A320ceo aircraft have been in the skies for an average of 13 years. As for 9H-NED itself, this particular example is just 1.24 years of age, having first flown in July 2020. Airbus delivered it to the Maltese flag carrier a month later. It has 180 seats in a one-class setup, and had accrued 1,061 flight hours as of July 31st this year.
What do you make of this historic flight? have you ever flown on one of Air Malta’s Airbus A320neos? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.