Vietnam Airlines has flown an Airbus A350 on a 15-hour repatriation flight. The airline flew in over 200 citizens from Equatorial Guinea, a small African country on the Atlantic Coast. While this flight was an impressively long operation, Vietnam Airlines also faced another challenge: over 100 people on the plane were positive for COVID-19.
The repatriation flight
The aircraft landed in Vietnam on July 29th after a long 15-hour flight from Equatorial Guinea. Onboard were 219 Vietnamese citizens. Four doctors were also onboard the plane to assist in case of any emergencies. There were also five pilots and eight flight attendants. Of the 219 citizens onboard, around 120 of them were COVID-19 positive.
As for the flight itself, the airline had to take some big precautions. While the risk of getting sick is not high on a plane as in other closed circumstances, Vietnam Airlines still took precautions to limit the risk of infection for other passengers.
Passengers were wearing extensive personal protective equipment, including full hazmat suits and masks. The seats were also all covered with wrapping.
All passengers will quarantine after they arrive in Vietnam. The government has set up dedicated quarantine areas for inbound repatriation passengers.
But, the airline had taken on other precautions. With over 100 known COVID-positive passengers, the airline was prepared. Not only were physicians onboard as well, but so was a plethora of medical equipment. This includes ventilators, nebulizers, vital sign monitors, oxygen tanks, stretchers, and more.
To protect passengers who had not tested positive for the virus, Vietnam Airlines created separate areas within the cabin. It was not just curtains, however, but the airline took further measures to install positive pressure chambers. This ensures that negative passengers are breathing clean, filtered air without viral particles.
Vietnam Airlines has been running an extensive array of repatriation flights amid the current crisis. Back in June, the airline flew its first flight to Africa using a Boeing 787-10. The repatriation flight flew in 309 Vietnamese citizens from Angola.
This flight was a little longer and came from Equatorial Guinea. Bata Airport (BSG) does not usually see any international long-haul operations. As such, this flight became all the more special. Malabo, the country’s primary international airport, sees services from several airlines, including Turkish Airlines, Air France, Ethiopian, Royal Air Maroc, and Lufthansa.
Vietnam Airlines used its Airbus A350 on this flight. The particular aircraft used was registered as VN-A899. The plane has 29 business class seats in a reverse herringbone configuration, 36 seats in a recliner-style premium economy configuration, and 240 economy class seats, according to Planespotters.net.
In the future, it is unlikely that Vietnam Airlines would launch regular commercial flights between Equatorial Guinea and Vietnam. The long-haul flight would likely not have enough demand to sustain operations without any corporate contracts or subsidies. Still, in times of crisis, it worked out for the airline.
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