On Wednesday, a Boeing 747 touched down in Frankfurt, having made the journey all the way from Honolulu. It carried European passengers from the cruise ship Norwegian Jewel, that had finally been allowed to dock in Hawaii after weeks of sailing around the Pacific. The aircraft enlisted for the rescue mission came from Spanish charter operator Wamos Air.
Pacific to Europe non-stop
A chartered Wamos Air Boeing 747-400 touched down at Frankfurt Airport on Wednesday morning. It had come straight from Honolulu, Hawaii, where it boarded stranded European cruise passengers who had seen their planned holiday at sea cut short. Instead, they got to be part of an unprecedented, direct Hawaii to Europe flight, operated by Norwegian. The leased Wamos aircraft then continued on to Madrid, from whence it commenced its journey all the way to the Pacific three days prior.
The Norwegian Jewel cruise ship had been denied docking in four countries, including Australia, and had been sailing around the Pacific for weeks before arriving in Honolulu. Hawaii had previously stated it would not allow any cruise ships to disembark in the state, but only to restock and refuel. This plan seems to have changed as, according to the Washington Post, the ship experienced propulsion problems, a repair that cannot be made with passengers onboard.
A month-long journey
Rescue flights for the cruise ship’s passengers took off Monday and Tuesday, bound not only for Frankfurt but also for Los Angeles, London, Vancouver, and Sydney. Hundreds of Australians who were onboard were flown back home on flight QF6034, a Qantas repatriation mission, which landed on Thursday.
There is no information as to how any of the passengers on either flight would be quarantined upon arrival, although no case of COVID-19 had been detected on the ship. The ship began its journey from Sydney on the 21st of February. None of the passengers had disembarked since the 11th of March, when a stop was made in Fiji.
More unique routes
Qantas has also operated another interesting route detour due to imposed travel restrictions. Its QF1 “Kangaroo Route” flights from Sydney to London via Singapore had to be rerouted when Singapore suspended all transfer traffic. It has flown a few rounds instead via Darwin, making the hop from the Northern Territory city to the UK capital in close to 17 hours with an Airbus A380, the first-ever direct Australia-UK flight utilizing this giant of the skies.
Not the only corona-stranded cruise
The Norwegian Jewel is not the first cruise ship whose passengers have needed rescue from being stranded at a port during the corona-crisis. On the 5th of February, the Diamond Princess was quarantined off Tokyo when a passenger who had left the ship in Hong Kong tested positive for the virus. In total 634 out of 3,700 passengers and crew were later confirmed to have been infected. The UK government oversaw the repatriation efforts of Brits with an additional quarantine time of 14 days on return.
Not a new mission for Wamos
Wamos Air is a Spanish airline previously known as Pullmantur Air. It operates mostly leisure charter flights to holiday destinations such as Varadero in Cuba, Cancún in Mexico and Orlando in Florida. Several of them are on behalf of its sister company Pullmantur Cruises, so the company is no stranger to ferrying cruise passengers across the Atlantic. The airline has seven Airbus A330-200s, and five Boeing 747-400s in its fleet.
Would you like to see regular direct flights from Europe to Hawaii in the future?