On March 4th, Turkish Airlines flight TK55 flew from Singapore to Istanbul completely devoid of passengers. This wasn’t due to an absence of ticket holders. Rather, it was because a passenger on the inbound flight from Istanbul tested positive for COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. As a result, the decision was made not to operate the flight as scheduled.
Reuters reports that the infected passenger was a French national who was traveling from London to Singapore, via Istanbul. The outbound flight from Istanbul to Singapore, TK54, was carrying 143 passengers. This is in addition to three pilots and 10 crew members.
Ghost flight to Istanbul
According to The Jakarta Post, CAAS (the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore) stated that the only people on the 787-9 back to Istanbul were the three pilots and 11 other crew. In fact, Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca says that the plane’s crew are now being held in quarantine for 14 days as a precaution.
CAAS reports that the pilots and crew of the March 4th flight of TK54 had been in close contact with the passenger.
“The passenger diagnosed with coronavirus in Singapore is a French citizen. The person was a transit passenger going from London to Singapore. Our plane returned without passengers. The crew will be protectively held in quarantine for 14 days,” -Fahrettin Koca, Health Minister of Turkey (via a post in Turkish on Twitter)
In an effort to contain the spread of the virus, Singapore’s transport ministry is reportedly tracking down passengers of flight TK54. This is because some may have had contact with the infected person.
Turkish Airlines and the coronavirus
Turkish Airlines has already had some interesting encounters with the coronavirus.
In fact, in February, it was confirmed that a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Lagos was responsible for carrying the first case of coronavirus to Nigeria and to sub-Saharan Africa. The infected man was traveling from Italy to Nigeria via Turkey. Turkish Airlines has since canceled all flights to Italy.
Also in February, a Turkish Airlines flight from Tehran (Iran) to Istanbul was diverted to the Turkish capital of Ankara. This was done at the request of the Turkish Health Ministry. According to Arab News, one passenger was suspected of being infected with the coronavirus. In this incident, the aircraft was greeted in Ankara with ambulances and a number of personnel wearing white protective suits on the tarmac.
Turkey has since shut its borders to Iran and cut flights due to the spread of the virus in that country.
Based on flight data collected from FlightRadar24.com, the ‘ghost flight’ was a one-off (for now) and regular service of TK54/55 has resumed. In fact, at the time of writing this article, TK55 is on its way back to Istanbul from Singapore. Presumably, this flight is operating with passengers, unlike the day before.
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