Qatar Airways Extends Partnership With Orbis’s Flying Eye Hospital

Qatar Airways has extended its partnership with Orbis UK for another three years until 2024. Orbis runs the Flying Eye Hospital, a fully staffed and operational mobile teaching hospital, flying to countries to train doctors and tackle preventable blindness. As the official airline partner, Qatar provides free flights for Orbis staff to travel to programs around the world.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital
Qatar first partnered with Orbis in 2012 to provide assistance on the hospital’s missions globally. Photo: Qatar Airways


Orbis UK and Qatar Airways’ relationship was due to expire in 2021 after nine years of partnering together. However, both sides opted to renew their relationship for three more years, despite the pressures of the pandemic. Currently, Obris is not flying its MD-10 “Flying Eye Hospital” due to the pandemic but plans to resume services in the future.

The extension means that Qatar Airways will remain the official airline partner to Orbis UK’s mission until at least 2024. But exactly does the partnership entail?

Orbis FEH
The Flying Eye Hospital contains a full surgical suite and recovery rooms to treat patients around the world. Photo: Qatar Airways

While it might seem odd that a flying hospital has a partner, Qatar Airways provides a key role in the mission. Through the partnership, the airline offers free tickets to Orbis staff traveling for missions around the world, providing easy connectivity and ensuring the charity can continue into the future.

In a statement, Orbis UK Trustee, Dr. Robert Walters said,

“For nine years, the Qatar Airways Group has been a generous supporter of our organisation and we’re proud to continue onto this next stage of our partnership. Thanks to Qatar Airways’ renewed support, the Orbis team will have access to free flights to programmes to continue the fight against avoidable blindness in person when it is safe to do so. Until this point, we remain committed to supporting our partners virtually and through our in-country programmes.”

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Orbis flies around the world to train local doctors and medical staff to prevent blindness in vulnerable populations. To efficiently train staff, the group flies a specialized McDonnell Douglas MD-10. Along with a classroom and passenger cabin onboard, the MD-10 also serves as an actual hospital too, containing an operation theatre and recovery room to treat patients.

The MD-10 itself is 48 years old and registered N330AU. According to, the aircraft started its life as a cargo jet delivered to Trans International Airlines in 1973 and most recently served in FedEx’s fleet until 2010. Since 2011, the aircraft has been flying with Orbis and replaced the DC-10 on the Flying Eye mission.

Orbis Flying Eye Hospital MD-10
The first and second generation hospitals were served by a DC-8 and DC-10, before the most recent specially configured MD-10. Photo: Cityswift via Flickr

Sadly, the pandemic has grounded the Flying Eye Hospital since March 2020 due to the risk of spreading infections. Instead, Orbis is providing medical training virtually to medical staff in dozens of countries. We hope to see this hospital flying and tackling cases of preventable blindness around the world!

What do you think about Qatar’s partnership with Orbis? Let us know in the comments!