Commercial passenger airlines all over the world are contributing their resources in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. airBaltic is no exception to this. Yesterday, the carrier flew one of its Airbus A220-300s from Riga (Latvia) to Urumqi (China) to transport vital medical supplies which will be used in Latvia.
Operated by an A220-300 with registration YL-CSI, airBaltic’s flight covered 4,815 kms each way. The return journey took six hours and 35 minutes to complete, according to the airline’s Twitter post on the event. The outbound flight had a flight number of BT9811 while the return journey had flight number BT7901.
Loaded with respirators and nearly a million face masks for Latvian medical staff, the aircraft landed in Riga early, early this morning at 01:10. Normally a passenger aircraft, the photos from airBaltic below show that the aircraft had its seats removed to accommodate the boxes and boxes of important cargo.
We are delighted for the opportunity to carry to Latvia almost one million face masks and respirators for our medical staff. We performed the 4815 km flight from Ürümqi Diwopu International Airport in China in 6 hours and 35 minutes with our @Airbus A220-300 registered as YL-CSI. pic.twitter.com/xEIMRCyj3H
— airBaltic (@airBaltic) March 29, 2020
Unusual routes for unusual times
During this unprecedented global emergency, we are seeing some truly strange routes being operated by airlines that would normally not fly to such destinations. A few examples include:
- Wizz Air flying from Hungary to China via Kazakhstan and Russia: The flight helped to deliver 11 tons of medical equipment including protective gear and test kits.
- Lufthansa flying from Frankfurt to Auckland via Tokyo: This flight was an effort to repatriate stranded German citizens who were otherwise unable to return to Germany.
- Aer Lingus operating a service from Dublin to Beijing. This operation will include multiple flights using volunteer pilots. Supplies being shipped include ventilators, masks, goggles, testing kits and more.
These are just a few examples of interesting routes as airlines work to either repatriate stranded citizens or collect and distribute vital medical supplies for critical frontline health care workers.
As China is one of the world’s largest countries for manufacturing various supplies, we can expect to see a lot of airlines sending their underutilized aircraft to the country for supply runs.
It’s fantastic that so many airlines are contributing to the effort. By doing so and making sure health care workers have essential life-saving medical equipment, it means more lives can be saved. As face masks are single-use items, medical workers have been burning through the item at a rapid speed. In fact, some cities have reported such severe shortages of face masks that workers have had to re-use what they have which poses a health risk.
With airlines stepping in to keep supply chains moving, this will hopefully ensure that a sufficient supply of face masks and other equipment will get to the health care workers who desperately need it.