Late Friday night, US carrier Delta Air Lines announced that it will offer free flights for medical volunteers. The airline said it is doing so to support the efforts at the frontline in “significantly impacted” areas of the country, but so far destinations do not include New York or California.
Georgia, Louisiana, and Michigan
The Delta round-trip tickets for eligible medical volunteers will be issued free of charge to Georgia, Louisiana, and Michigan. The volunteers will there work in coordination with the state and local government and be deployed to hospitals in areas hardest hit by the virus.
Bill Lentsch, Delta’s Chief Customer Experience Officer commented on the move, saying in a statement,
“We are witnessing the heroic efforts of our medical professionals around the world as they combat COVID-19, and we have deep gratitude for their selfless sacrifice … Air travel plays a significant role in making connections in both good and challenging times, and our hope is that offering free travel gives more of these professionals the ability to help in critical areas of the U.S.”
Delta said it will keep looking into the possibility of expanding the program to other states in need, such as New York, Washington, and California. Since New York is fast becoming the epicenter of the spread in the US, (59,500 cases at the time of writing) and reports are coming in about health care systems already crumbling, it is curious that it is not on the initial list. Perhaps this is because the local system is not yet set up to receive volunteers?
From April onwards
Delta said that medical volunteers who are interested in the program should contact the state offices to determine eligibility based on each state’s specific needs. Once they are qualified as eligible for the programs, Delta will work with state and local governments to make flight reservations. To start, the flights will be offered during the month of April and can be booked up to three days prior to travel.
We are grateful for the heroic efforts of medical professionals around the world as they combat COVID-19.
Delta is offering free flights for medical volunteers to assist in certain significantly impacted regions of the U.S.
— Delta (@Delta) March 28, 2020
Georgia is the home state of Delta Air Lines’ headquarters in Atlanta and, at the time of writing, the state had 2,651 confirmed coronavirus cases and 80 deaths as a result of the virus. The state’s governor Brian Kemp declared a public health state of emergency for Georgia as early as the 14th of March.
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport, one of the world’s busiest, and Delta’s largest hub, is being used to park Delta aircraft. Delta has sent some 600 planes into hibernation as a result of the precipitous drop in demand and the travel restrictions as the world locks down in the battle against coronavirus.
Some of them have closed down three out of five Atlanta airport runways. Other aircraft are still being parked in the desert, with rows upon rows of abandoned planes invoking words such as “apocalyptic” and “surreal” from the pilots who fly them there.
Aircraft – heroes without capes
Around the world airlines and aircraft manufacturers are finding ways to be of service during these times of unprecedented crisis for the global collective and the aviation industry. Airbus has delivered protective face masks from China with one of its test A330-800neos. Aer Lingus has volunteer pilots flying to Beijing and back picking up coronavirus tests. The British Government has chartered three BA flights out of Lima for British nationals stranded in Peru. Although some still try and find ways in which to profit. $5,000 one-way ticket from Peru to Australia anyone?
Is your national airline doing anything along the lines of Delta’s free flights for medical workers? Let us know in the comments!