Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Virgin Group’s not-for-profit foundation, Virgin Unite, to fly a special charter flight from Shanghai to London, bringing in essential medical supplies and personal protection equipment (PPE) equipment for the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and patients.
The Boeing 787-9 aircraft operated flight VS251 from Shanghai which departed at 11:40 local time on April 3, landing at 16:50 on the same day into London Heathrow.
Manned by seven pilots and four cabin crew, the aircraft carrying more than 350,000 items of essential medical equipment including respirators, ventilator parts, face masks, scrubs, aprons and eye protection in both the hold and in the cabin of the aircraft.
Dominic Kennedy, managing director of Virgin Atlantic Cargo, commented: “We are incredibly grateful to the NHS for everything they are doing for the nation in extremely challenging circumstances, as they respond to the Covid-19 crisis. We’re pleased we can play a part in supporting them, by bringing crucial supplies into the UK. With special thanks to the British Embassy in Beijing, the CAA and the UK Government in expediting clearances to make this possible.”
“Despite a decrease in passengers travelling, demand to transport cargo remains strong, keeping global supply chains running and transporting essential supplies around the world. We’re looking forward to continuing to partner with the Department for Health and the NHS, working with them on a number of flights over the next few weeks, to bring in the supplies that the teams here in the UK urgently need to care for patients. Thanks also to Guy’s and St Thomas’ for their support in helping to organise this.”
Jean Oelwang, Founding CEO and President of Virgin Unite, the charitable foundation of the Virgin Group, added: “Millions of first responders, nurses, doctors, and other NHS staff are working tirelessly day and night on the front-lines of this crisis. They are true heroes in this crisis and we are humbled to have the opportunity to get this much needed equipment to them.”
The emergence of COVID-19 has led to Virgin Atlantic operating its first ever pure cargo flights, a first for the airline since its launch in 1984. Special exemptions from the imposed travel restrictions for pilots and cabin crew mean that cargo operations can continue.
Virgin Atlantic is one of several Virgin Group companies supporting the NHS in its response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The airline’s highly skilled people have been approached to volunteer at several initiatives including the new NHS Nightingale Hospital built at (London’s ExCeL Centre), the London Ambulance Service, other NHS Hospitals and for the NHS volunteer responders.