On 16th April, Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) successfully completed the repatriation of its nationals from the US. The effort was carried out with 90 staff members to fly home over 180 passengers. A Boeing 777-300ER operated the trip, and staff committed over 40 hours of working time.
The details of the repatriation
Earlier this week, Saudia completed a round-trip between the Middle East and the US to bring home stranded Saudi nationals. The trip, carried out on 16th April, was the latest repatriation effort that the airline has conducted as a result of coronavirus.
Saudia was responding to a call from the royal family to repatriate nationals stranded abroad. However, this particular trip was no easy feat. It required significant human resources and long flight times.
On 16th April at 05:26 UTC, one of Saudia’s Boeing 777-300ER registered HZ-AK42, left Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED) in Saudi Arabia bound for Los Angeles. HZ-AK42 operated non-stop as flight number SV41. It flew out of Saudi Arabia over Greek, Austrian, and German airspace before flying over the UK. The aircraft continued north, making its way over Greenland. It then crossed over the Northwestern Passages entering Canadian airspace and headed for the west coast of the US.
It touched down in Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) at 21:21 UTC on 16th April, having completed the flight in 15 hours and 47 minutes. However, there was no time to rest. After promptly boarding, the aircraft left Los Angeles just two hours later.
A large crew made the operation possible
At 17:22 PDT (00:22 UTC the following day), the aircraft carried back its 187 passengers to Jeddah. This leg of the trip was slightly shorter thanks to tailwinds and the route which crossed the breadth of the US, through French airspace before traveling south back to Saudi Arabia. However, it still took 14 hours and 36 minutes.
The trip received significant praise as a result of the monumental effort involved. There was a round of applause as the crew touched down in Saudi Arabia. Among the staff that made the journey possible were eight pilots, 35 cabin crew members, and 43 navigators. In a tweet translated from Arabic, the President of the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority said:
“With pride, I thank my crew and the crew for a “first of its kind” @Saudi_Airlines trip, coming from Los Angeles…I am proud of you.”
انفاذاً لتوجيهات القيادة الرشيدة -حفظها الله-بتسهيل عودة المواطنين من الخارج.
بكل فخر واعتزاز أشكر ملاحي وطاقم القيادة لرحلة @Saudi_Airlines "الأولى من نوعها" والقادمة من لوس انجلوس لنقل أبناء وبنات الوطن، حيث قادها 4 طواقم جوية لمدة تتجاوز 42 ساعة متواصلة
فخور بكم 🇸🇦#عودة_آمنة https://t.co/m1UF6eqPYf
— عبدالهادي بن أحمد المنصوري (@abdulhadimans) April 18, 2020
Just one of many repatriations from Saudia
Over the past few weeks, Saudi Arabia has been called upon to operate numerous repatriation flights. However, they have not all been for its nationals. On Sunday, 29th March, Saudi Arabian Airlines began flights between the UK and Saudi Arabia. The aim was to bring British citizens back on home soil. In that week, the airline operated a service between London Heathrow and Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam.
In addition, Saudia has also been instrumental in the repatriation of US citizens. This week, the airline operated three additional flights to the US from Saudia Arabia. This allowed US citizens stuck or transiting in Saudi Arabia to return home. On Tuesday 14th April, Saudia flew from Jeddah to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. On Friday, 17th April, it operated a further two flights. One was from Riyadh to John F. Kennedy International Airport, and the other was from Jeddah to Washington-Dulles International Airport.
As fewer people come to need repatriation flights, it looks like this flight could be one of the last that Saudia carries out. It does not appear to have any further repatriation flights scheduled.
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